March 7, 2006 > Diabetic? Take Steps to Care for Your Feet
Diabetic? Take Steps to Care for Your Feet
More than 20 million Americans-or 7 percent of our population-have diabetes, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) reports. In some parts of the Tri-City area, the impact of this chronic disease may be even greater than elsewhere in the U.S. A recent community needs assessment of Alameda County showed that Newark has our region's highest rate of death from diabetes.
If left unchecked, diabetes can lead to many serious complications. One common result is mild to severe nerve damage, which may affect sensation in the feet or hands. Nearly 30 percent of people over 40 with diabetes have at least one area of their feet that lacks feeling.
In extreme cases of this condition, when severe infection or gangrene occurs, amputation of the foot or part of the leg may be necessary. In 2002, according to the ADA, Americans with diabetes underwent 82,000 non-traumatic lower limb amputations. This type of amputation is ten times more common for people with diabetes than for people who don't have the disease.
"It's very important that people with diabetes learn about prevention and taking care of their feet so they can help minimize problems," says Fremont podiatrist Jorge E. Alaniz, D.P.M. Dr. Alaniz will discuss this topic in more detail on March 14 at a free Health & Wellness seminar sponsored by Washington Hospital Healthcare System.
What to do
If you are diabetic, in addition to regular check-ups with your doctor, you should check your feet frequently and know the warning signs of foot complications, recommends Dr. Alaniz. This can be a challenging responsibility if you can't feel part - or all - of your feet.
At the March 14 seminar, Dr. Alaniz will also discuss other critical steps people with diabetes should take to protect their feet:
- Wear proper shoes and socks, especially if you've lost sensation in your feet. You are more at risk of developing sores and blisters, which can be very difficult to heal because of impaired circulation brought on by the diabetes.
- Do not walk barefoot. You put yourself at risk of serious injury that will be difficult to heal.
- Take care when trimming your toenails, or have a professional do it.
- Watch for ingrown toenails and calluses. They're harder to detect when you have lost sensation in your feet.
Take care of yourself
If you have diabetes, you should take better care of your entire body. One of your most important steps is to maintain a close relationship with your primary care physician. He or she can help manage your condition so blood sugar levels are kept under control and some of the serious complications of diabetes can hopefully be avoided. You should:
- Stop smoking. Cigarettes contribute to poor circulation brought on by diabetes.
- Watch what you eat. Follow the diet recommended by your physician or nutritionist.
- Exercise regularly. Walking is a great option.
"Diet and exercise are major factors in helping to prevent long term complications from diabetes," adds Dr. Alaniz. "Remember, once the damage from diabetes is done, it can't be reversed."
To help you learn more about diabetic foot disorders, Dr. Alaniz will present a Health and Wellness seminar on Tuesday, March 14, from 1 to 2 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue. To register, please call (800) 963-7070. For more information about the upcoming seminar or other classes offered at Washington Hospital, visit www.whhs.com, click on "For Our Community" and select "Health Classes & Support Groups" from the drop-down menu.