July 24, 2007 > Diabetes Matters
Caring for Your Feet
If you have diabetes, you may be aware that you are at risk for a variety of serious complications, ranging from kidney failure to blindness to strokes. But did you know that people with diabetes are also at risk for serious problems with their feet?
"Diabetes can affect both the nerves in your feet and the circulation of blood to your feet," says Dr. Jorge Alaniz, a podiatrist at Washington Hospital. "Damaged nerves may cause a loss of sensation that makes it hard for you to tell if you have blisters, sores or other injuries to your feet. The poor circulation reduces your body's ability to heal foot sores, which may become infected. In extreme cases, such infections may progress to the point where amputation of the foot is required."
Dr. Alaniz recommends that all people with diabetes have regular examinations of their feet.
"People don't often think about their feet when they go in for regular exams by their physicians," he says. "It's a simple matter to just take your socks off and remind your doctor to check your feet. Ideally, people should get a 'baseline' exam of their feet when they are diagnosed with diabetes and then an annual exam thereafter. You can start with your primary care physician, but if you have any concerns about the health of your feet, don't hesitate to ask for a referral to a podiatrist."
To help people in the community learn more about this serious problem, Washington Hospital will be sponsoring a free "Diabetes Matters" education class on diabetes and foot health, featuring a lecture by Dr. Alaniz followed by a moderated group discussion. The session is scheduled for Thursday, August 2 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium in the Washington West Building located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont.
"Prevention, as always, is the key," Dr. Alaniz notes. "First and foremost, you need to manage your diabetes so your blood sugar levels are under control.
"You also need to be sure you are wearing shoes that fit properly," he adds. "Ill-fitting shoes can cause blisters that turn into non-healing wounds. In addition, you should examine your own feet daily to look for blisters, calluses, sores or cracked skin."
At the August 2 session, Dr. Alaniz will outline other important steps people with diabetes can take to protect their feet, such as:
* Wearing shoes and socks when walking, even indoors, to protect your feet from injury.
* Following a daily regimen of proper foot hygiene, washing and drying your feet carefully.
* Making an appointment with a podiatrist to treat foot problems, such as removal of corns or calluses, rather than trying to treat them yourself using over-the-counter-remedies.
"Diabetes Matters" is a monthly program sponsored by Washington Hospital that provides science-based information to people interested in increasing their knowledge about diabetes. The classes, held the first Thursday of every month except July, are free and require no pre-registration. All of the lectures are videotaped and available in the hospital library, as well as on the Washington Hospital Web site. Go to www.whhs.com, click on the "Services and Programs" tab, then click the link for "Diabetes Services," then "Diabetes Matters." For more information, you can call 510-608-1327.
The "Diabetes Matters" lectures also will be airing on Washington Hospital's "InHealth" TV program. To check broadcast schedules, go to the Web site, click on the "For Our Community" tab and then click the link for InHealth Channel 78 & Broadcast Schedule.