What is Diabetic Foot?

Diabetes has several serious complications. If blood sugar level is not well controlled the complications may arise. Serious complications of diabetes include diabetic retinopathy (may result in impairment of vision or blindness), diabetic nephropathy (kidney damage occurs and there may be renal failure), diabetic neuropathy (damage to nerves, especially peripheral nerves), diabetic foot etc.

Diabetic foot or foot problems due to uncontrolled diabetes may develop suddenly and become serious. Due to diabetic neuropathy a diabetic individual may not be able to feel his/her feet properly (the sense of feeling when touched or injured may be abnormal). Due to damage to nerves there may be impairment of production of sweat and oil (lubricates skin) in the skin. These factors (impaired sense/feeling and impairment of production of sweat and oil in skin) may lead to excess pressure to the skin, bones, and joints of the foot during walking and damage skin and cause sore and initiate diabetic foot problems.

Once diabetic foot problems starts, it becomes very difficult to heal because there is impairment of immune system and damage of blood vessels due to diabetes (uncontrolled and high blood sugar). Sores may be infected and it is difficult to treat (eradicate) infection without bringing down high blood sugar to normal. Infection of skin (sore) may spread to connective tissues, muscles and bones, which becomes more difficult to treat and gangrene may develop. Due to damage of blood vessels, antibiotics may not be able to reach infection in adequate concentration. Once gangrene develops the only treatment option left for the doctor is amputation of gangrenous part of foot/limb. If the infection enters blood stream, it may cause life threatening infection.

It is important for all diabetes patients to know and understand the seriousness of complications of diabetes and take appropriate measures to keep blood sugar under control (within normal limit). Because the only way to prevent serious complications such as diabetic foot (and other complications) is to keep blood sugar within normal limit by diet, exercise and medications.

All diabetic individuals (even those with good blood sugar control) should learn how to prevent diabetic foot. They should learn how to self examine the foot and be aware of the signs and symptoms of diabetic foot. Diabetic individuals also should learn how to manage minor foot problems at home and when there is risk of a minor foot problem turning to serious problems and when to seek medical attention.

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