DIABETES AND HOW IT AFFECTS THE FOOT
What Is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease characterized by uncontrolled raising and falling of blood sugar levels. This is due to a lack of secretion or lack of sensitivity of the hormone that controls blood sugar levels (Insulin).
Insulin is the hormone (chemical) that regulates the amount of sugar in the blood
Types Of Diabetes
There are two major types of diabetes:
1. Insulin dependant diabetes melitis (IDDM) also called type 1.
2. Non-insulin dependant diabetes melitis (NIDDM) also called type 2.
There is no such thing as “mild diabetes,” only “well controlled diabetes” which involves regular checkups, self monitoring, exercise and a well planned diet.
What Causes Diabetes?
When you eat food, the body breaks it down into smaller molecules that are easier for the body to handle. One of these molecules is sugar. The body uses this sugar from foods for energy. The sugar molecules move from the stomach into the blood and circulate around the body. For sugar to enter the body’s cells where it can be used as an energy source, a key is required to unlock doors to the cells. Insulin is this key that allows sugars to move from the blood into the cells. If insufficient or ineffective insulin is produced and the doors into the cells are not unlocked, your blood sugar levels will rise (diabetes). This irregular rise in blood sugar level can be controlled by either:
1. Injecting insulin (IDDM)
2. Diet & exercise / Tablets (NIDDM)
Why Are Blood Sugar Levels Important?
When blood sugar levels are too low (less than 3mmol/l), the function of the brain is inhibited, which can cause fainting. When blood sugar levels are high (greater than 8mmol/l), the sugar is toxic to bodily organs such as nerves, eyes, kidneys and arteries.
Tests for Blood Sugar Levels
You can monitor your blood glucose levels at home with a blood glucose meter. Your doctor can order a test called a HbA1c which gives an indication of your blood sugar levels for the previous 3 months.
What Does Diabetes Have To Do With My Feet?
When high blood sugar affects nerves and blood vessels, they loose there ability to function. This leaves the person with nerve and blood vessel damage at a higher risk of foot trauma (they can’t feel it) and with a reduced capacity to deal with the foot trauma (the blood vessels can’t get blood to the area).
The statistics speak for themselves. Foot problems are 2 times more likely in people with diabetes. 50% of all cases of gangrene are seen in people with diabetes.
How Can I Prevent Foot Problems?
- Wash and dry feet daily.
- Use Moisturizer on dry skin 1-2 times daily. Cream with 10% urea is usually the best.
- Trim your toe nails straight across.
- Inspect your feet daily for injury or change. Use a mirror if you have trouble getting down. Have a podiatrist treat your corns and callus.
- Check shoes everytime you put them on for sharp edges or foreign objects.
- Wear footwear whenever you are out of bed.
- Wear pressure reducing orthotic innersoles (docpods) to reduce the chance of foot problems (corns & callous) and trauma.