Millions of people are affected by diabetes each year. Diabetes damages blood vessels in all parts of the body, especially the feet. The legs and feet may develop slow blood flow, which causes neuropathy, or nerve damage. Once a diabetic patient develops neuropathy, it is important that the feet are well taken care of. Otherwise, the lower limbs may have to be amputated. This only happens in drastic cases, but it shows how seriously diabetic foot care should be taken.
It is very important to always wash and dry the feet thoroughly, especially in between the toes, if you’re a diabetic. Secondly, examining your feet and toes for redness or sores must be done, even if you do not feel pain. You may also want to examine your feet from the bottom. Try to avoid wearing colored socks to prevent infections that may occur from the dye. Well-fitting socks are also highly recommended.
A diabetic’s physician should always monitor their blood levels to test how well blood sugars are being maintained. In addition to giving advice about everyday eating habits and foot care, a physician may prescribe medicine to help with the diabetic patient’s neuropathy. It is also advised to see a podiatrist if experiencing any feet conditions. Toenails may also need to be taken care of by a podiatrist. This prevents patients from cutting too deeply around their cuticles, which can lead to infection.
A person can take care of their feet at home by following the instructions of their physician. Using creams on one’s feet is also an effective way to heal dryness. Proceed with caution when using tools to remove calluses, as severe diabetics may not be able to feel pain on their feet. If any complications arise do not hesitate to contact a podiatrist.
On a daily basis, diabetic feet must be checked. If you are ever concerned about something, contact your health care professional. You never want to wait until a wound becomes too severe to treat. If left untreated, gangrene may develop. Gangrene is a serious infection that can lead to sepsis or amputation. It is also important for diabetics to be on the lookout for ulcers. Ulcers are sores that develop from tissue loss on the skin. They can be quite painful and require intensive treatment. Early treatment and everyday inspection are imperative to staying healthy.
Heel spurs most commonly result when calcium deposits on the back of the foot where the heel is. They may also be the result of small fragments of bone breaking off of one section of the foot and attaching to the back of the foot. Heel spurs can also be bone growth on the back of the foot. When this is the case, the bone growth tends to grow in the direction of the arch of the foot.
Heel spurs are most commonly diagnosed in older individuals. Younger individuals also suffer from heel spurs, but the pain associated with the condition usually intensifies in aging. Heel spurs have the tendency to inflict a great deal of pain. The heel spur itself, however, is not always the cause of the pain. Heel spurs are often associated with plantar fasciitis.
The pain that is associated with heel spurs can be traced to the placing of weight on the feet. As the individual stands or walks, their weight is placed on the feet, causing the heel spur to press on and poke the other bones and tissues in the feet. This may result in severe pain. As the condition continues to persist the tissues in the feet will become tender and overly sensitive.
If you or someone you know is suffering from heel spurs and their related pain, there are a number of treatments to look to. These treatments range from medicines, surgery, and herbal treatments. One of the simplest ways to ease the pain and discomfort of heel pain is to use special foot supports. These insoles are placed directly in the individual's shoes. They relieve the pain and tension that is placed on the foot by offering a soft gel pad for the weight to be evenly distributed without causing pain.
There are also a number of exercises that some believe may relieve or actually reverse heel spur growth and stop the pain. One exercise has the ball of the foot against the wall while balance is maintained on the heel of the foot. The individual then shifts their weight towards the wall, causing a rubbing of the heel spur. Other exercises and stretches may also be performed that can help loosen and relax muscles and tendons in the feet, relieving pain. Applying ice packs and taking anti-inflammatory medication may also help. Night splints may be worn while sleeping to keep the foot stretched out, which may make the foot less painful in the morning.
The branch of medicine that is focused on the treatment, diagnosis, and study of disorders of the lower leg, ankle and foot is referred to as podiatry. Because people often spend a great deal of their time on their feet, many problems in this area can occur. A person seeks help from the field of podiatry when they need treatment for heel spurs, bunions, arch problems, deformities, ingrown toenails, corns, foot and ankle problems, infections, and problems with the foot that are related to diabetes and additional diseases.
To treat problems of the foot, ankle or lower leg, a podiatrist may prescribe physical therapy, drugs, perform surgery, or set fractures. Individuals may also be recommended to wear corrective shoe inserts, custom-made shoes, plaster casts and strappings in order to correct deformities.
When trying to gather information on a patient problem, a scanner or force plate may be used in order to design orthotics. During this procedure, patients are told to walk across a plate that is connected to a computer; the computer then takes a scan of the foot and indicates weight distribution and pressure points. The computer readouts will give the podiatrist information to help them determine the correct treatment plans.
Diagnosis is also provided through laboratory tests and x-rays. Through the foot, the first signs of serious problems such as heart disease, diabetes and arthritis can show up. For example, individuals that have diabetes may frequently have problems such as infections and foot ulcers because they experience poor circulation in the foot area. A podiatrist can then have consultations with patients when symptoms arise. Referrals will then be made to specialists that handle the greater health problems.
Some podiatrists have their own independent, private practices or clinics where they have a small staff and administrative personnel. Many podiatrists work within group practices. They usually spend time performing surgery in ambulatory surgical centers or hospitals, or visit patients in nursing homes. Podiatrists typically spend between 30 to 60 hours of week working. Some podiatrists specialize in public health, orthopedics, surgery, or primary care. Other fields include specialties in geriatrics, dermatology, pediatrics, diabetic foot care and sports medicine.
Some podiatrist specialists complete extra training in the area of foot and ankle reconstruction that results from the effects of physical trauma or diabetes. There are also surgeons that perform surgery of a cosmetic nature to correct bunions and hammertoes.
Hammertoes are painful deformities that frequently form on the second, third, or fourth toe. The condition is often caused by an issue in foot mechanics. This can be caused by the person’s specific gait or the manner in which they walk, or by shoes that do not comfortably fit the deformity. Hammertoes can be formed after wearing shoes that are too narrow or short for the foot or have excessively high heels. Shoes that are not properly sized will force the toes into a bent position for long periods of time. This can cause the muscles to shorten and toes to bend into the deformity of a hammertoe.
Hammertoe can also be caused by complications from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, trauma to the foot, heredity, or a cerebral vascular accident. Pain and difficult mobility of the toes, deformities, calluses, and corns are all symptoms of a hammertoe.
Someone who suspects they have the symptoms of a hammertoe should consult with a physician—particularly a podiatrist. Podiatrists diagnose and treat complications of the foot and ankle. If the podiatrist discovers that the affected toes are still flexible, treatment for the hammertoe may simply involve exercise, physical therapy, and better-fitting shoes. Treatment for hammertoes typically involves controlling foot mechanics, such as walking, through the use of customized orthotics.
For more serious cases in which the toes have become inflexible and rigid, surgery may be suggested. During the operation, the toe would receive an incision to relieve pressure on the tendons. A re-alignment of the tendons may then be performed by removing small pieces of bone to straighten the toe. In some cases, the insertion of pins is needed to keep the bones in the proper position as the toe heals. The patient is usually allowed to return home on the same day as the surgery.
If surgery is performed to repair a hammertoe, following the postoperative directions of your doctor is essential. Directions may include several stretches, picking up marbles with your toes, or attempting to crumple a towel placed flat against your feet. Wear shoes that have low heels and a wide amount of toe space to maintain comfort. Closed-toe shoes and high heels should be avoided. Shoes with laces allow the wearer to adjust how fitted he or she may want the shoes to be and also allow for greater comfort. To provide adequate space for your toes, select shoes that have a minimum of one-half inch of space between the tip of your longest toe and the inside of the shoe. This will also relieve pressure on your toes and prevent future hammertoes from forming.
Other preventative measures that can be taken include going shopping for new shoes in the middle of the day. Your feet are its smallest in the morning and swell as the day progresses. Trying on and purchasing new shoes midday will give you the most reliable size. Be sure to check that the shoes you purchase are both the same size. If possible, ask the store to stretch out the shoes at its painful points to allow for optimum comfort.
Poor blood circulation in the feet and legs is often caused by peripheral artery disease (PAD), which is usually the result of a buildup of plaque in the arteries. Plaque buildup, or atherosclerosis, can be the result of excess calcium and cholesterol in the bloodstream. This restricts how much blood can flow through arteries. Reduced blood flow to a certain area of the body severely limits the amount of oxygen and nutrients that part of the body receives. This leads to degeneration in the muscles and other tissues. Sometimes, poor blood circulation in the feet and legs can be caused by other conditions, such as the damaging or inflammation of blood vessels, known as vasculitis.
The lack of oxygen and nutrients caused by poor blood circulation can restrict muscle growth and development, as well as cause muscle pain and cramps, weakness, and stiffness. Other common symptoms include numbness in the legs and feet, skin discoloration in the affected limbs, slower nail and hair growth, and erectile dysfunction in men. In more severe cases of PAD, pain can be present even when a person isn't exercising, and may range from mildly uncomfortable to completely debilitating.
Poor blood circulation in the feet and legs is more common in those who are overweight or obese, have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, who smoke, or who have a family history of PAD or related conditions such as a heart attack, stroke, etc. Diabetes and smoking place a person at greatest risk for developing poor blood circulation, although advanced age, over 50, can also increase risk.
If you are experiencing poor blood circulation in the feet and legs caused by PAD, it is important to make changes to your lifestyle in order to reduce your risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke caused by this condition. If you smoke, quit completely. This will increase the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream. Exercising and reducing the saturated fats in your diet. Saturated fats come from fatty meats, fried foods, whole milk, etc., can make a difference in improving blood circulation in feet. It is also important to avoid developing influenza and to carefully control your blood sugar if you have diabetes.
Your doctor may recommend combining lifestyle changes with a prescription medication regimen to improve blood circulation. The most commonly-used medications for PAD are called statins and work by blocking the amount of enzymes in your body that produce cholesterol. They are known by the brand names Zocor, Lipitor, Crestor, and others.