A diabetic foot is a direct result of diabetes mellitus or a complication of this condition. It is usually characterised by an infection, an ulcer in the foot or neuropathic osteoarthropathy. Persistent pain, redness around a wound, swelling of the feet or legs, hard shiny skin on the legs, localized warmth, calluses, corns or infections or tears on skin that are not healing should all be observed carefully and attended to. Any of these could be a symptom of a diabetic foot. A numbness in the feet or legs that does not go away soon could be a sign of nerve damage from diabetes and a risk for diabetic foot problem.
Causes of Diabetic Foot Problems
- Poorly fitting shoes can cause red spots, blisters, corns, calluses or consistent pain in people with diabetes, leading to a diabetic foot.
- People with diabetes for several years are often at risk for having the nerves in their feet damaged. As diabetic patients have a reduced ability to feel pain, minor injuries can remain unnoticed, turning into a foot ulcer over time.
- Another issue faced by diabetic patients is poor circulation. This leads to hardening of the arteries and healing does not occur properly, resulting in a diabetic foot.
- Similarly, infections like athletes’ foot, fungal infections of the nails and ingrown toenails should all be treated properly and quickly to avoid bigger problems like the diabetes foot.
- Smoking is very dangerous for people with diabetes. It causes damage to the small blood vessels in the feet and legs which can lead to infections and amputations.
How to Treat Diabetic Foot
Once a diabetic foot is suspected, the patient or care giver should waste no time in consulting a physician. The physician would perform a series of tests to satisfy himself about the extent of severity of the issue. These could include physical examination, x-rays, ultrasound scan, angiogram of the foot, etc.
The first line of treatment would be antibiotics to contain the infection. This would be supported by appropriate dressing, medicines to improve blood circulation, a referral to an orthopaedic surgeon and a nutritionist, and periodic check-ups. Visiting a podiatrist could also be suggested as he would prescribe special shoes, remove calluses and explain how to care for the foot routinely at home.
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Prevention of Diabetic Foot
While once a diabetic foot has been diagnosed and must be handled by the specific medical professional, it is equally important to learn how to prevent getting a diabetic foot in the first place. Prevention of diabetic foot issues requires a combination of factors:
- Keeping diabetes in check
- Performing leg and foot examinations thoroughly and at frequent intervals and knowing to recognize signs of any problem.
- Choosing comfortable, sturdy and suitable footwear
- Exercising regularly, if not vigorously
- Avoiding getting hurt on the feet. Removing obstacles on the path and ensure good lighting would reduce the patient’s chances of getting hurt on the foot.
- Trimming nails with a nail clipper and not scissors. Cutting the nails straight across can prevent in grown toenails and the possibility of that getting infected.
- Having a doctor examine the patient’s feet at least once a year using a monofilament, a device made of nylon string that tests sensation
Quitting smoking and being around smokers. Passive smoking is as harmful as active smoking.