Keep a watch on those feet

Keep a watch on those feet Keep a watch on those feetDiabetes is a chronic disease, which can damage a whole range of body tissues and organs leading to increased morbidity. People with diabetes are prone to foot problems leading to formation of ulcers and amputations. Foot ulcers and amputations, are the most common reasons for hospitalisation, disability, as well as emotional and physical problems among diabetic patients.

While diabetic patients take care to protect eyes, kidneys and heart from the effects of abnormal sugar levels, the foot is often neglected. Estimates suggest that more than 15 per cent of the diabetic patients develop foot problems.

Children or young adults with Type 1 diabetes are not at a great risk of diabetes related foot problems in the early years as their nerves and blood vessels would not have been severely affected by it. They should be encouraged to participate in sports and lead an active lifestyle.

The risk of ulcers or amputations in diabetic individuals is more in males, especially in those with poorly regulated diabetes or in those who have eye, kidney or heart complications. People with Type 2 diabetes can get foot problems soon after diagnosis because they might have had diabetes for a long time without even knowing it.

Diabetes can affect the feet due to neuropathy (nerve damage), peripheral vascular disease (poor blood circulation) and infections.

Neuropathy is a common complication of diabetes, reducing the ability to detect sensations and predisposes an individual to injuries and trauma. Any weight bearing area without protection tends to open and form a wound or ulcer.

Neuropathy may also affect the muscles of the foot causing clawing of the foot. Charcot foot is one of the deformities that result from trauma to the insensitive foot, due to which the arch of the foot collapses. Deformities make the feet more vulnerable to infection.

Diabetes can also affect blood circulation, which can affect the ability of the body to heal when damage occurs. Reduction in blood circulation to the feet restricts delivery of oxygen and the vital nutrients that are required for normal maintenance and repair. This would result in slow healing of foot injuries, infection or ulceration. In worst case scenarios, it could also lead to gangrene.

* Examine your feet daily for blisters, bleeding, and lesions between toes.
* Keep feet clean by washing with lukewarm water and soap.
* Dry feet carefully and pay special attention to the spaces between toes to prevent athlete’s foot.
* Use the right footwear.
* Have regular foot examinations.

* Do not walk barefoot.
* Do not sit cross legged for a long time.
* Do not cut corns/calluses with blade or knife. Home surgery is dangerous.
* Do not smoke.
* Don’t use hot water bottles or heating pads, one can burn his/her feet without realising it.
* Don’t soak the feet, since this dries out natural oils.

- The writer is the chairman and diabetologist, Dr Mohan’s Diabetes Specialities Centre, Chennai & Hyderabad

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