Diabetes is a multi organ disease that can have profound effects on your body. Increased blood sugar (glucose,) can cause nerve damage. This in combination with being overweight, high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure (the triad of issues that contributes to diabetes), and smoking are all issues that are the precursor to diabetic amputations.
To begin with you must take responsibility for your health. Being overweight prevents your body from using the insulin it produces in an efficient manner. Increased sugar causes nerves not to function properly usually beginning with the longest nerves first, (thus the reason your feet are affected first). Include arteries that are being blocked by increased cholesterol, and high blood pressure, and you are a powder keg just waiting for an explosion.
By not being able to properly feel your toes and feet, you are unaware that that you may have stepped on a foreign body or the skin may have cracked. That foreign body or crack breaks the skin and this allows bacteria to move in. Not being able to feel the pain of the resulting infection and not being able to heal the wound due to “small vessel disease” associated with high cholesterol, soon a small ulcer or opening in the skin forms. This progressively gets larger. Since there is no pain, many diabetics simply ignore the problem. Sooner than later the infection has past the limit that antibiotics can heal the wound and the only option left is an amputation of the toe, foot or perhaps even the leg.
Symptoms of diabetes need to be looked out for. Increased thirst, increased urination are only the beginning. Numbness and tingling, pain or “a heavy feeling” in the feet and legs are all signals that something is very wrong. I can only tell you how many times a patient will being a visit with the phrase ”Doc, my feet feel like I am wearing socks all the time”, or, “These shooting pains are keeping me form sleeping”.
If you are already a diabetic, please follow these simple rules. Don’t smoke. Keep your blood sugar under control. Eat a healthy diet and walk for exercise. Inspect your feet (or have someone do it for you) on a daily basis. Don’t attempt your own “foot care”. It rarely comes out successful. Wear properly fitting shoes (I don’t care how comfortable you THINK they are…If they are worn out, throw them out!!!)
If you notice or feel anything that is not “normal” for you tell your doctor sooner than later.
It is never too soon to prevent a diabetic foot and leg amputation. If you don’t believe me, ask one of the 86,000 diabetic people last year that had one….