Most people only seek out treatment for their feet when they’re in pain. But if you’re a diabetic, it’s vital that you find a podiatrist (an ankle and foot doctor) and establish a regular checkup schedule as soon as possible. You may even be able to find a local podiatrist who specializes in diabetic foot care, though any ankle and foot doctor should be able to provide treatment.
Why Do Diabetics Need Special Care?
Diabetes damages nerves and reduces blood flow to the extremities. Together, this means that you are both more likely to have foot problems and less likely to notice them. Reduced sensation means that you could have a medical concern and be unaware of it until it is very serious. For this reason, it’s important to see a podiatrist at least once a year.
What Are Common Complications?
According to the American Diabetes Association, one-fifth of diabetics who seek out hospital treatment do so because of foot problems, and people with diabetes are also more likely to need foot or leg amputations. Generally, one of two scenarios creates a dangerous situation in people with diabetes: Either an infection from a normally common problem (such as a cut or ingrown toenail) spreads, or the person injures him or herself without knowing it. People with diabetes often feel that their feet are cold, but burn themselves with hot water or heating pads. Smoking also severely increases the risk of needing an amputation; it causes blood vessels to shrink further, compounding blood flow problems and making it harder for wounds to heal.
How Should I Handle At-Home Care?
It’s also important that you take care of yourself in between doctor visits. Every day, wash your feet with mild soap and water, then pat dry. Use lotion or petroleum jelly to prevent the skin from cracking, and examine the tops and bottoms of your feet for the following problems: blisters, cuts, sores, redness, tenderness, increased warmth, corns, callouses and ingrown toenails. Always wear socks and well-fitting shoes. If you cannot see or reach your feet to inspect them, have a friend or family member do it for you. If you see any of these symptoms, call your doctor right away.
Do you know of other medical conditions that should prompt people to visit an ankle and foot doctor regularly? Add your advice or ask questions in the comments.