Diabetic Foot Disease

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What is diabetic foot disease?

If the patient is diabetic, his feet are especially vulnerable to nerve damage, infections, ulcers and problems that result from poor circulation. By taking care, though, the patient can usually avoid these.

What are the symptoms of diabetic foot disease?

The diabetic patient cannot take his feet for granted. He/she should examine them regularly for cuts, ingrown toenails and skin color changes. Pain, numbness or inability to feel hot or cold can be symptoms of diabetic foot problems.

Who is likely to get diabetic foot disease?

Just being a diabetic makes a patient apt to have foot problems, unfortunately. But problems are more likely to escalate if the patient ignores the symptoms.

The patient is more likely to develop these symptoms if he smokes, is overweight or fails to keep his feet clean and moisturized.

What causes diabetic foot disease?

Diabetes causes blood vessels to narrow and harden which decreases circulation to the foot and decreases the patient's ability to fight infections.

How is diabetic foot disease diagnosed?

The physician at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush examines the patient's feet and tests his ability to feel pain, hot and cold.

The physician checks for foot neuropathy (loss of normal nerve function), which diabetics are prone to have. With neuropathy, the patient may not feel something that could damage his foot, such as scalding bath water or a stone in his shoe.

The physician checks for calluses and ulcers. If he/she suspects the bones are affected, he may order an X-ray, CT scan or MRI.

What are the treatments for diabetic foot disease?

The physician can treat most diabetic foot problems without surgery. But prevention of Type Two (adult-onset) diabetes is key. The patient can usually avoid it by maintaining a normal weight and eating well. The increase in Type Two diabetes has coincided with the increase in obesity.

Non-surgical Treatment Options

The diabetic foot needs extra care and attention. The physician may advise the patient to:

  • Wear "diabetic shoes" or inserts to protect the bottoms of the feet
  • Examine the feet regularly for cuts and infections. Keep them clean and moisturized so too-dry skin does not crack.
  • Wear supportive shoes to prevent calluses and sores. If calluses develop, file them with a pumice stone.
  • Quit smoking because smoking decreases circulation to the foot and makes the patient more prone to diabetic foot problems
  • Attend physical therapy to help keep the feet flexible

Surgical Treatment Options

If a foot ulcer or infection is untreated, the foot and ankle physicians at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush may have to remove it. It can lead to amputation. Diabetics are much more likely than others to have foot amputations.