Side Effects from Diabetes Include Foot Pain, Problems
Diabetes compromises a patient s health from skin complications to stroke. Feet are especially vulnerable because many times a person who has diabetes has little or no sensation on the feet.
Diabetic patients need to be constantly aware of their feet, says podiatrist, Job Timeny, DPM. It is very important that patients are under the care of a vigilant podiatrist for periodic foot checkups. When at home, Dr. Timeny recommends that diabetic patients:
- Turn their shoes upside down before placing their feet in them to discard any objects that might be hidden in the shoes, like pieces of rocks or glass
- Wear shoes, even at home
- Keep feet moisturized to prevent cracks in the skin
- Take medications prescribed by their physician
Patients with diabetes may develop diabetic neuropathy or Charcot neuropathy, which affects the bones and joints.
- Diabetic neuropathy occurs when the patient starts to lose sensation in the feet. In advanced stages, patients usually complain of pins and needles in the feet and are irresponsive to pain stimulus, which gives the false impression that their feet are doing well. This condition can lead to a breakdown in the skin barrier and result in Charcot neuropathy, and sometimes to amputation.
- Charcot neuropathy is a very complicated deformity and usually very hard to treat. It occurs when the bones in the foot break down, a condition known as rocker-bottom foot. Once the deformity is settled, it usually causes chronic wounds. Debridement (surgical removal of dead tissue or debris) alone tends to be insufficient to heal these wounds. The normal architecture of the foot has to be surgically restored. Sometimes, simple removal of the protruded bone can enhance the healing process.
Diabetes is a treatable condition, with specific plans tailored to each patient. In cases dealing with a diabetic foot that lacks feeling, there are multiple medications on the market that seem to help with pins and needles sensation that is a common complaint, Dr. Timeny says. The choice is based on the doctor s preference and patient s satisfaction.
One of the greatest threats a patient with diabetes encounters is the potential loss of a lower limb. Diabetic patients are in a constant race against amputation, Dr. Timeny says. Through no fault of their own, sometimes an infected wound just happened without any suspicion, just because the foot lacks feeling. Treating foot infection in diabetic patients is difficult. A lot of time, patients arrive at the hospital many days after the initial injury, and sometimes the best that can be done is amputation.
Untreated peripheral arterial disease also creates a risk for amputation. Treating a patient with diabetes is a team effort that involves different medical specialties, and failure of a well-orchestrated treatment plan places the patients at a disadvantage, Dr. Timeny says.
Rowe Hudson, director, Lee Health Solutions, offers a diabetes education program to help patients with diabetes make healthy choices and manage their chronic conditions.
It s important to follow your physician s instructions and examine your feet daily, Rowe says. There are specific shoes that are designed for people with diabetes. Medicare coverage is available for many types of these shoes. People need to know that they can successfully manage their condition, and that there are tools out there to help them.
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Job Timeny, D.P.M.
Elite Foot & Ankle
15740 New Hampshire Court
Fort Myers, FL 33908