Diabetes & Bone Health

Diabetes is a serious condition that can have long-lasting impacts on your bone health, especially where your feet are concerned. Without proper care, you can even end up losing toes or more. Fortunately, you can prevent these dangerous conditions with diligence and proper treatment. Regular appointments at Horizon Foot & Ankle Institute can also keep your feet healthy. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about diabetes bone health to help you stay healthy from head to toe.

Can Diabetes Impact My Feet?

Yes, diabetes can have a serious impact on your feet. The number one issue is diabetic neuropathy, which is a type of nerve damage. It can cause the following symptoms: 

  • Loss of sensation
  • Pain
  • Tingling

The pain can affect day-to-day life, especially if you’re physically active, and the loss of sensation can lead to further problems. For example, if you can’t feel pain or discomfort in your feet, you can’t immediately know if you’ve been injured. Even small injuries, such as burst blisters or shallow cuts, can become dangerous if not treated quickly.

In a worst-case scenario, untreated injuries can become gangrenous, putting the limb at risk. If the infection progresses past a certain point, you may lose part of your leg, foot, or toe.

What Foot Conditions Can Diabetes Cause?

In addition to gangrene, diabetes can lead to many other conditions:

  • Ingrown Toenails: Often painful, ingrown toenails may become infected if not addressed. Ingrown toenails occur when the toenail grows into the surrounding skin, causing redness, drainage, pain, and swelling.
  • Ulcers: Caused by constant rubbing or minor injuries, ulcers are sores that can become infected if not treated. They’re often painful and should be addressed by your doctor.
  • Fungal Infections: Fungus can take root beneath your skin in what is commonly referred to as athlete’s foot or start growing beneath your toenails. In both cases, the fungus can cause infection if not treated. Treatment is relatively simple, usually involving an oral antifungal medication or a topical cream.

 

When Should I Talk to My Doctor?

Quick treatment is vital to healing infections and keeping your foot, so it’s essential that as soon as you identify an issue, you speak with a physician. If you’re at risk of bone or nerve damage due to diabetes, you should regularly check your feet for the following:

  • Tingling or pain
  • Persistent sores
  • Changes in temperature
  • Swelling
  • Skin color changes

 

What are Effective Treatments?

Issues such as ingrown toenails are fairly simple to treat with trimming; should they become infected, your doctor will likely prescribe an antibiotic. Ulcers and other cuts, on the other hand, may require more care.

All wounds should be cleaned and dressed immediately to prevent infection. Dressings should be changed regularly, and the wound cleaned before new dressings are applied.

Should you develop Charcot’s foot (a relatively rare condition) as a result of nerve damage, there are diabetes bone treatments available that involve wearing a boot or cast. This can prevent the breaking and shifting of bones.

Finally, surgical options increase blood flow and decrease the likelihood of developing medical conditions in the feet. One option is the placement of stents to keep your blood vessels open. Another option is the arterial bypass.

 

How Can I Prevent Diabetic Foot Conditions?

Of course, the best cure is prevention. This involves visiting your doctor regularly for check-ups and keeping your diabetes under control. Additionally, there are a few tips you can follow:

  • Wear socks and shoes
  • Keep your feet warm in the cold
  • Don’t wear tight socks
  • Trim your toenails
  • Use a pumice stone to smooth away calluses and corns
  • Wash your feet daily

If you have foot pain associated with diabetes, Horizon Foot & Ankle Institute can help. Our team can address a variety of conditions and is dedicated to helping our patients stay healthy and happy. For more information or to schedule an appointment, give us a call at (314) 381-1800 or contact us online.

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Syda Productions