November is National Diabetes Awareness month and a great time to highlight the importance of a close working relationship between podiatrists and their diabetic patients. There are currently 26 million diabetics in the United States, and another 79 million pre-diabetics who are at a very high risk of developing the disease. It is vitally important that these patients have a good health care team made up of doctors from multiple specialties.
Podiatrists have a big role in managing a diabetic patient and monitoring their health and wellbeing. Diabetes is a condition that is hallmarked by an inability to deal with sugar from the diet appropriately, leading to a high amount of glucose in the blood. With long periods of exposure to high blood sugar, you start to get irreversible nerve damage. Almost half of all diabetics will develop a condition known as neuropathy, the loss of feeling and sensation in your feet and legs.
Under normal circumstances, we would recognize an injury such as a blister, pressure ulcer, or stepping on a small piece of glass because of the pain it causes. Unfortunately for patients with neuropathy, this type of pain can’t be felt, and the wound is at a higher risk of getting infected because it goes unnoticed. Open infected wounds can continue to worsen and deepen, eventually involving more than just the skin.
Another problem caused by diabetes is a weakened immune system and decreased ability to heal wounds, so even a minor injury is more serious than it would be for non-diabetics. Once you add in a deep infection (called an ulcer) that could involve the skin, soft tissue, tendons, ligaments, and/or bone, you are looking at a major challenge. There is a good chance that diabetics will never be able to heal, and the situation continues to worsen, leading to the need for an amputation of a toe, part of the foot, the whole foot, below the knee, or even above the knee.
Diabetic ulcers and amputations are no joke. In this country, the #1 cause of non-traumatic amputations is diabetes. A recent study found that 45% of patients who developed a diabetic foot ulcer would not be alive in 5 years. That same study found that more than 50% of patients who had an amputation due to diabetic complications wouldn’t be alive in 5 years.
At Advanced Foot Care Centers, we look to develop a very close relationship with all of our patients, especially diabetics. Let us help you prevent complications from diabetes in your feet. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Wilkins at our St. Elmo office, and begin your relationship with us today.
By: Kimberly Wilkins