Diabetes is a chronic disease which can affect every organ of the body, including our feet.
It is a condition where insulin (the hormone responsible for metabolizing glucose) function is impaired.
Diabetes is a result of either the body is unable to produce insulin or when the body can only produce insufficient amounts of insulin that is needed by the body.
Insulin is needed to move glucose from the blood stream into the body’s cells and the liver, if this is not done excess glucose remains in the blood causing damage to body organs and tissues.
Why is the foot of great concern in people who have diabetes?
Diabetes damages the nerves:
- Diabetes damages the nerves, leading to peripheral neuropathy. This means that the nerve fibres and receptors are damaged leading to a loss of sensation. This causes you to lose your ability to feel different sensations. This can be vibration, a sharp sensation, hot and cold or even just soft touch.
- If you cut yourself you may not be able to feel any pain and not know you have an injured foot which can become infected. A simple wound can turn into an ulcer that becomes difficult to heal. In some cases the foot can become gangrene.
Diabetes affects vascular circulation:
- Diabetes affects your circulation from your heart through to all the blood vessels that lead to your feet. The feet are the furthest away from your heart and don’t always get blood flow with sufficient oxygen and nutrients. Therefore healing of wounds can be slow or impaired.
- Impaired circulation can also affect your nails, skin, nerves and muscle function.
Diabetes affects the joints:
- Diabetes affects the joints by rendering the collagen and other soft tissues stiff and rigid. This can cause pressure areas on the feet that can ultimately ulcerate because you can’t feel the pressure and unable to heal the pressure sores.
- There is also a condition called Charcot foot. This condition can occur in people with diabetes. The foot completely collapses causing pain and major deformity of the foot.
Getting your feet checked regularly is important for foot and general health.
You may require an arch support to redistribute pressure away from problematic areas.
Looking after your feet can keep you on your feet and continue to have an active life.