If you have recently been diagnosed with diabetes you probably are upset, wondering what could you have done to avoid this, and how is this diagnosis going to change your life. For most people the new diagnosis of diabetes can be a very frustrating and confusing time in their life. A lot of focus gets placed on the new medication(s), diet and introduction of exercise regimens. Unfortunately, foot care often gets overlooked.
Basic foot care is essential for prevention of future foot problems including conditions like athlete’s foot, fungal nail infections, cracked skin, sores on the feet, and infections that if left untreated can lead to amputation. All of these conditions can be avoided or controlled by having your feet examined by a podiatrist who can identify problems before it is too late, and get you on the right path to a foot healthy life.
Diabetics should see a podiatrist for evaluation as soon as possible after diagnosis. When you visit a podiatrist you are given a comprehensive foot exam that only a podiatrist can provide. Your visit will include discussion of your history of the condition, your medical management of your condition, as well as foot and leg related problems you may or may not have.
The Diabetic Foot Exam
Dermatological Exam (Skin)
The first part of your exam focuses on a visual inspection of the skin and its associated structures including hair and nails. Diabetics may have an increased risk of dry cracked skin, thickened toenails and fungal infections of the skin. Your podiatrist will also evaluate the integrity of your skin. Poorly controlled diabetics can also get sores on their feet called ulcers that if left untreated, can lead to infection and in some cases amputation of toes, feet and even legs.
Vascular Exam (Bloodflow)
The second portion of the exam looks at blood flow. We look at the color of the skin, its warmth, pulses, as well as hair growth and if any swelling is present. The absence of pulses, hair, warmth, or pink skin, and swelling can all indicate a circulation issue.
The third portion evaluates the sensation or our ability to feel when touched. High blood sugars in diabetics if left untreated can lead to damage to the nerves, changing nerves ability to feel and in some cause chronic pain. Your podiatrist will test your ability to feel normal stimulation of the fee with specialized instruments. Tendon reflexes are often evaluated as well. In an uncontrolled diabetic patient skin sensation can be diminished and in some extreme cases absent.
The final portion of the diabetic foot exam evaluates muscle strength, muscle tone, the range of motion of your joints, any areas of pain, and any areas of bony deformity that can lead to increased pressure. Any areas of increased pressure are sites where diabetics can experience skin breakdown and ulcer formation.
What Can a Podiatrist Do For You?
Podiatrists have special expertise in counseling you on daily foot care as well as treating conditions of the skin, nerves, vessels, bones and muscles. One of the most common services offered by podiatrists is routine nail and callous care for those diabetics who are unable to cut their own nails due to poor blood flow or inadequate sensation to feet. Diabetics also may qualify for custom shoes and insoles which reduce the risk of skin breakdown, can reduce foot pain, and help with stability. The frequency of visits to your podiatrist for routine checkups can be as often as every few months or once a year based on your diabetic symptoms.
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes the time to see a podiatrist is now. Diabetes is not a death sentence and with the help of your podiatrist you can continue to live a long, happy and healthy life.