November is diabetes awareness month! Learning more about diabetes can help millions of people potentially avoid it altogether. Diabetes is a serious disease that affects over 29 million people in the US and the numbers are only going up. Diabetics have a 50% higher risk for death and a higher risk of going blind, getting heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, or loss of limbs. Diabetes is also costly and medical costs can be twice as high as costs for people without the disease. Here are a few ways diabetes is especially harmful for your feet and ankles.
- Nerve Damage (or diabetic neuropathy) can occur if you don’t learn to properly manage your diabetes. When the nerves are damaged it is very difficult to recover and you may lose sensation in your legs and feet. As the nerves continue to deteriorate, the muscles will also become affected making it difficult to walk properly. About 10% of people will develop ulcers in the foot due to this issue.
- Poor Circulation (peripheral vascular disease) doesn’t sound like it’s too serious, but without good circulation any cuts or sores will have a hard time healing making you more prone to infection. If infections aren’t cleared quickly, they can make you more likely to develop ulcers or gangrene.
- Athletes Foot/Fungal Infections are more easily contracted and more difficult to get rid of if you have diabetes. Prevention is the best course of action by keeping your feet dry and protected.
- Hammertoes. As the muscles in your feet get weaker it becomes more difficult for you to walk properly, which will result in your toes shifting. The pressure that you place on your feet as you walk will get displaced also causing calluses, bunions, and corns.
- Walking becomes difficult which makes being active even harder. If diabetes progresses unchecked, ulcers and gangrene can take over your feet. You may even need to get an amputation.
The good news is diabetes is easily preventable for most people with proper diet and regular exercise. Spend some time this month planning out an exercise and diet plan to help combat diabetes! Dr. Kenneth R. Wilhelm of Clifton Foot & Ankle Center has been treating patients with diabetes related ailments and other foot and ankle problems for over seventeen years. Call our Centreville, VA office at 703-996-3000 or make an appointment here.