Myths About Diabetic Foot Care:
Why Minor Foot Problems Can Threaten The Use of Limbs
Most diabetic patients are not aware of the serious health threat posed by minor foot problems. The sad fact is that trivial problems such as corns, calluses, blisters and ingrown toenails – even dry skin – can quickly become infected. By the time a diabetic patient becomes aware of the problem, it’s often too late.
- Diabetics have circulation problems: Diabetes mellitus is a disease that impairs the body’s ability to use and store glucose (blood sugar), the body’s principal fuel. Blood is composed of white cells, red cells and plasma which are essential for healing. Too much blood sugar causes blood to travel slower, in turn impairing the immune system. Too much blood sugar also clogs blood vessels which inhibits the flow of blood to small blood vessels. This is particularly pronounced in the lower extremities and the eyes where most small blood vessels are located. Sometimes, vision is so poor that diabetics actually cannot see a foot ulcer.
- Diabetics lose feeling in their limbs: Diabetes also decreases the supply of blood to the nerves, causing numbness. Thu, diabetics are not as sensitive to pain and often do not feel the discomfort of a foot problem.
- Why diabetics are prone to infection: While other patients develop a callus from areas that rub the skin – like corns, hammertoes, and ingrown toenails – because of their weakened blood supply, diabetic develop a hole. A decreased immune system promotes fungus infections and changes the texture of the skin, causing cracks. These holes and cracks quickly become infected. While infections in a non-diabetic patient can be easily contained, diabetics frequently require IV antibiotics.
- Some diabetics lose their limbs: Because of decreased circulation, diabetics cannot sustain the same amount of activity as other people. Walking may be a safe activity. But, when you add pressure form corns, calluses, infected cracks and ulcers, the bloody supply may not be able to keep up with the increased demand. Without an adequate supply of blood, infection ensues, the tissues dies, and gangrene becomes a threat. Gangrene is the term that describes tissue death due to failure of bloody supply serious infection. Once a diabetic is diagnosed with gangrene amputation is frequently necessary.
How to Avoid Foot Problems That May Threaten Your Limbs
Serious diabetic complications can be prevented by meticulous foot care. If you are a diabetic, you should see Dr. Tepper at least every 2 to 3 months for a routine check-up. Some diabetics need to be seen as often as every 2 weeks. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you need to see Dr. Tepper as soon as possible:
Conservative Treatment is Available to Patients Who Seek Prompt Intervention
One of the beliefs people have about medical treatment is that they should “wait and see” whether a problem is serious before calling for help. This is appropriate for many problems, like colds and headaches, but not for diabetic foot care. Prompt intervention means a wider variety of treatment options, without need for conventional surgery, which may include:
- In-office laser surgery to treat ingrown toenails, warts and fungal nails
- Medications to treat peripheral neuropathy (painful burning on the feet), nail fungus, heavy callus formations, night cramps, and dry, scaly skin
- Orthotic devices correct muscle imbalance, promote proper function, and help feet to absorb shock
- Custom-made molded shoes worn inside a shoe to provide extra cushioning and take pressure off ulcers
- High voltage electrical stimulation which decreases infection and pain, kills bacteria and fungus, and promotes nerve activity
- Ultrasound which helps ulcers heal more rapidly
- Whirlpool to soften skin, treat ulcers and cleanse deep pockets of infection
Medicare Pays For Podiatric Care
Knowing that foot, ankle and leg problems can become serious for diabetics, the Medicare program pays for emergency as well as routine care. Diabetic patients can visit Dr. Tepper as often as necessary for routine nail and foot care.
When You Need Dr. Tepper’s Help
Dr. Jan David Tepper is well-known among area physicians for his prompt, effective care of diabetic patients. As a podiatric physician, he is trained as a specialist to medically and surgically treat all diabetic foot complications. His office contains diagnostic and physical therapy equipment designed specifically for foot care and not available in most medical offices. This equipment is especially helpful in the treatment of diabetic foot problems, which often need non-surgical methods.