Pat Schulkins is one of the millions of Americans with type 2 diabetes.
“Oh I probably have had it around 15 years,” says Pat Schulkins.
She monitors her glucose, but when it came to the state of her feet, Pat was unfeeling. About half of diabetics have this side effect called neuropathy.
“These patients, especially when they get really bad, lose the ability to feel their feet. So they don’t know when there’s a problem,” says Dr. Andrew Belis, foot and ankle surgeon on staff with Lee Memorial Health System.
Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage brought on by uncontrolled blood sugar. The feet and toes are most commonly affected. The lack of sensation increases the risk of serious problems when injuries and sores go unnoticed.
That’s exactly what happened to Schulkins.
“It was like a big blister kind of, inward though. It wasn’t sticking out like a blister does,” says Schulkins.
By the time she noticed the ulcer on her foot, it was almost too late to save.
“The ulcer was there and it was chronic and resistant to care. And we got to change courses and address the underlining bone structure, so we basically reconstructed her foot so there’s not these high pressure spots where the ulcer or the bone would break through the skin,” says Dr. Belis.
Experts stress the importance of knowing the symptoms, which may include, tingling, burning, pain or numbness in the feet; getting annual foot exams and wearing approved diabetic shoes if needed.
“Even simple things like an ingrown nail can get infected; it can get down to the bone and can risk losing the toe. You or I notice a sore or even a small cut on your foot people with diabetes have less feeling they may not notice it until two or three weeks later. By that point it could have erupted into a full blown infection,” says Dr. Belis.
Although she managed to side step an amputation, Schulkins will never take her feet for granted.
“And I know, I never thought it would happen,” says Schulkins.