Diabetes is a disease where the body can’t remove glucose from the blood. The hormone insulin is created by the pancreas and used to move sugar from the bloodstream and into the muscles where the body can use it for energy. In diabetic patients, the pancreas fails to create insulin in sufficient quantity to move the insulin out of the blood. The resulting high blood sugar levels can damage the circulation and nervous system of diabetic people, causing major health problems in addition to the diabetic condition.
Diabetes Is A Common Disease
Nearly 10% of the population of the United States is suffering from diabetes at some level. Some people are unaware that they have the disease, as it is in the beginning stages and hasn’t manifest in symptoms, yet. Twenty-five percent of people over the age of 65 have diabetes.
Types of Diabetes
There are two types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disorder that usually manifests in childhood or early adulthood. Type I Diabetes is also referred to as “juvenile diabetes” because it so often strikes in the early years of life. For persons with Type I Diabetes, the pancreas is attacked by an immune response in the body and the pancreas is no longer able to produce any insulin.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes usually presents in people over 45 and is also referred to as “adult-onset diabetes,” however, with the rise in childhood diabetes, more and more children are being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, as well. Type 2 diabetes is much more preventable than is Type 1. While a person can be genetically predisposed to the disease, risk factors for developing diabetes seem to be primarily environmental.
Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes
Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include obesity and physical inactivity, as well as a genetic predisposition. Often, in the early stages of Type 2 Diabetes, a patient is able to reverse the disease or keep it from progressing further through diet and exercise. This leads doctors and researchers to draw a strong link between lifestyle choices and the disease.
Risk factors for diabetes include:
Excess Weight – While you don’t have to be overweight to have the disease, it is the primary risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes.
Apple Shaped Bodies – People who store excess weight primarily in their abdomen show a greater tendency to develop type 2 diabetes. For men, the risk of diabetes rises if your waist measures over 40 inches. For women, having a waist that measures over 35 inches increases the odds of developing the disease.
Inactivity – A sedentary lifestyle leads to extra weight and contributes to the likelihood that you will develop type 2 diabetes. Staying active keeps the sugar in your blood used up as energy and keeps your cells more sensitive to insulin.
Family History – Individuals with a family history of type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop the disease, as well.
Race – It is unknown why some races are more likely to develop the disease than others, but black, Asian, Hispanic, and Native American people have a higher risk of diabetes than do other races.
Age – The older you are, the more likely you are to develop type 2 diabetes. The risk of developing diabetes increases after age 45, but more and more young people are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes all the time.
Prediabetes – Individuals who have suffered from prediabetes, a condition where blood sugar is elevated, but not enough to be considered diabetes, are at great risk of developing full-blown type 2 diabetes.
Gestational Diabetes – For women, having experienced gestational diabetes during pregnancy increases their chances of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome – Having polycystic ovarian syndrome increases a woman’s risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a fairly common condition among women that is characterized by irregular periods, excess androgen which can cause excess facial hair, and weight gain.
Symptoms of Diabetes
In the early stages, diabetes often has few or mild symptoms. Often, by the time the symptoms become noticeable, the disease is already advancing. This makes it important to seek medical advice if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Increased Thirst
- Frequent Urination
- Hungry More Than Normal
- Blurred Vision
- Unintended Weight Loss
- Frequent Infections
- Sores That Won’t Heal
- Darkened Skin In Patches, Often Around The Armpits Or Neck
Complications From Diabetes
Increased insulin levels from diabetes can damage major organs and systems in the body. Diabetes affects the heart and blood vessels, the nervous system, the kidneys, and eyes, and contributes to slower healing throughout the body, hearing impairment, skin conditions, sleep apnea, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Diabetic Foot Care
Because of the damage that diabetes can cause to the circulation system and the nervous system, it is extremely important that individuals with diabetes take extra care of their feet and immediately tend to any concerns. One of the potential effects of diabetes is a weakened immune system rendering the body unable to effectively fight off infections. Additionally, the disease often leads to serious problems with the feet.
One common way that diabetics encounter foot problems is due to a damaged nervous system. Weakened nervous systems are not able to effectively convey messages from the feet, leading to an inability for the patient to feel the feet. This also impairs normal sweat secretion and oil production in the feet, leading to an abnormal pressure on the feet during walking and skin problems that often result in sores.
Due to the suppression of the immune response in diabetics, the body is often unable to heal these wounds. If left untreated bacterial infections can lead to gangrene, which may require amputation to ensure that the infection does not spread to other parts of the body.
Diabetes And Foot Problems
Several problems can occur in the feet of persons with diabetes. Among these are peripheral artery disease, peripheral nephropathy, bunions, corns, calluses, hammertoes, fungal infections, dry skin, and ingrown toenails.
Bunions in People With Diabetes
Bunions are a common foot problem that develops over time as the bones near the bottom of the big toe are misaligned and a bony protrusion forms at the base of the joint. In people with diabetes, poor circulation and a damaged nervous system can lead to a loss of sensation in the feet, making it more difficult to recognize when a bunion has occurred.
Corns & Calluses in Patients With Diabetes
Corns and calluses are hard, thick layers of skin that develop as a protection against pressure or friction. Your feet can develop corns or calluses as a result of poorly fitting shoes or repeated activity. In a diabetic patient, corn and calluses should be closely monitored to ensure that they are healthy and don’t develop any type of infection, as infections are much slower to heal in diabetics.
Hammertoes in Individuals with Diabetes
Hammertoes occur when there are muscle and ligament imbalances around the toes, causing the toes to buckle, forming a hammer or upside-down V. For people with diabetes, hammertoes can be a serious problem because they run a higher risk of foot ulcers and infections, as well as slower healing time due to the disease.
Fungal Infections in Diabetics
Athletes foot and other fungal infections are common occurrences in people with diabetes. Difficulty with circulation and reduced sensation from a damaged nervous system can leave some patients more prone to developing foot infections, including Athlete's foot. A weakened immune system makes it more difficult for individuals to recover from all types of infections, including fungal infections. The dry skin that results from athlete’s foot makes a diabetic’s feet more prone to cuts and abrasions which can lead to more serious infections.
Ingrown Toenails in Diabetic Patients
Ingrown toenails are caused by a number of factors, including poorly fitting shoes and nails that are trimmed too closely. Ingrown toenails occur with the skin around the nail grows over the nail. A person is most likely to get an ingrown toenail in their big toe. Many times, ingrown toenails can be treated at home and will heal by themselves, time. For people with diabetes, however, the risk of complications is greater, due to decreased circulation. Ingrown toenails can be dangerous to patients with diabetes because of the increased opportunity for infection and slower healing time common among diabetics.
Diabetic Foot Care Specialists
If you suffer from diabetes, you must ensure foot health by working with your doctor to reduce the likelihood of infection and quickly treat any infection that arises. Dr. Kleis has more than 25 years of experience working with patients from all walks of life, including patients with diabetes. He can help you craft a foot healthcare plan that will keep your feet healthy and happy for years to come.
Contact us today to learn how we can help you protect your feet for a lifetime. Call (714) 760-4944