According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 29 million people in the United States have diabetes. It is estimated that roughly 73,000 lower extremity non-traumatic amputations occur each year as a result of diabetic foot complications. The underlying factors that can lead to amputation commonly involve gradual worsening numbness and/or circulation problems to the feet. Without the patient knowing, painless open foot sores can develop which can quickly get infected potentially resulting in limb loss.
Diabetes: Why It’s Important to Watch Your Feet
Because of these facts it is extremely important for diabetic patients to pay close attention to their feet every day. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, keep the following things in mind when you inspect your feet:
- Make sure that you have a good light source to inspect your feet.
- Wear corrective lenses if needed. Consider using a mirror or mirror/magnifying glass to see your feet clearly. Some mirrors have handle extensions if you have trouble reaching your feet.
- Everyone’s feet are slightly different in shape, size and contour. When checking your feet regularly you’ll become familiar with the normal presentation.
- Don’t be afraid to ask a family member for help.
- What does a diabetic foot problem look like?
Because many diabetic feet may develop gradual numbness (neuropathy) it is important that you look with your eyes and feel with your hands thoroughly. Beware of the following in any part of your foot:
Specifically, look for evidence of ingrown, discolored or loosened toenails. Check around each toe for evidence of cracking or fissuring of the skin. Inspect the bottoms of feet for blisters, callouses or open wounds (ulcer). Watch for any discoloration around bony prominences involving the ankle, heel, ball of the foot and toes.
What should I do if I think there is a problem?!
Immediately seek the advice of a health care provider. Some problems may be small and can be easily remedied. However, some can rapidly lead to limb or life threatening infections. Be proactive! Address identified problems immediately.
Stephen Merena, DPM, is a podiatrist in the Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Department at the University of Vermont Medical Center.