It's easy to take your feet for granted, especially if they have always taken you places without any trouble numerous times before. If they start to hurt, you can stop doing whatever it is that was causing discomfort, take a rest or stick a bandage on the trouble spot. For people with diabetes, however, it's not quite as simple and extra precautions have to be taken.
Dr. Aaron Albers, podiatrist at Trinity Health, said that foot issues for people with diabetes are a huge problem and about 50 percent of the people who come in to see him have diabetes. He also said they amputate limbs quite a bit, but they do their best to save them. Amputations happen more so with people in the end stages of diabetes, Albers added.
People with diabetes can end up losing feeling in their feet. It slowly creeps up so the person can lose sensation without realizing it, Albers said. One issue that can arise is losing sensation in the feet and developing pressure sores or ulcers that can cause bigger problems over time, he said.
Dr. Aaron Albers, podiatrist at Trinity Health, kneeling, examines the foot of Mary Muhlbradt, member of Trinity’s marketing department, in an exam room at Health Center-West. Foot issues for people with diabetes can be a huge problem, but Albers said a lot of preventive measures are done to keep from having to amputate a limb.
"A lot of times it (pressure sore) will come from wear and tear or a callus will break open," Albers continued. It's best to catch any kind of foot problem early if possible, he said. "As a diabetic, you need to check your feet daily or have a family member check your feet."
Albers said he does a lot of amputations due to people not knowing they have a problem.
"When the doctor finally sees it, there can be a raging infection by the time the patient comes in," he said.
Many preventive measures are taken, he said, in order to keep the person from having a bigger problem down the road.
Albers has had training in limb salvage. Limb salvage involves limb care, bracing and orthotics and working with vascular surgeons, he said. It also involves prevention, finding and treating at-risk patients before a problem arises and incorporating surgical intervention, Albers also said. Amputation is necessary when there's a lack or loss of blood flow and an infection, he continued.
"People don't know they have an infection because they can't feel or they don't show symptoms. By the time they see a doctor, the infection can be in the bone," Albers explained. A red flag for people is losing sensation in their feet, he said, and once that starts, then it's time to get aggressive and do prevention measures.
For someone with diabetes, anytime he or she sees a cut, scratch, scrape or opening of skin, the person should be concerned and see the doctor, Albers said. "It's a lot easier to deal with a problem early on," he added. Also, people are encouraged to see the doctor if they have a concern, Albers said. Wounds are difficult to heal in people with diabetes, he continued.
"Most of the time people come in when there's a problem, like if they go to the emergency room or to their doctor," Albers said.
There are some preventive measures that Albers can recommend for people with diabetes. Checking the sensation level in your feet to see if the diabetes has progressed, monitoring your blood sugars daily, wearing proper shoes and daily inspecting your feet are some recommendations, he said.
"It's a team approach to treating a diabetic because it affects every body system," Albers added. "We just want to preserve the person's ability to walk and save limbs so the person can be a functioning member of the community and live life to the fullest."