FootCareDirect Footcare Resource



Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. It is a chronic metabolism disorder identified by high blood glucose levels resulting from the body's inability to produce and/or use insulin. When the body does not produce enough insulin and/or does not efficiently use the insulin it produces, sugar levels increase in the bloodstream. When this happens, the body's cells may be starved for energy, and high blood glucose levels may damage the eyes, kidneys, nerves, or heart over time. There are two main types of diabetes. Most people diagnosed with diabetes inherit a genetic disposition to the disease.

Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. With this type of diabetes, the body loses its ability to produce insulin. Sufferers must gain insulin through injection or pumps, and must manage the disease through specific diet and exercise regimens. Environmental triggers for Type 1 diabetes may include early diet, cold climates, and exposure to viruses.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form and evolves through environmental or lifestyle factors but still has a strong genetic influence. It is usually associated with older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, history of gestational diabetes, physical inactivity, and race or ethnicity. It is possible to delay or prevent Type 2 diabetes through proper diet and exercise.

There is also a condition called pre-diabetes or Metabolic Syndrome-X and this is associated with elevated blood pressure, elevated BMI, which is a height and weight index, and hypercholesterinemia (elevated cholesterol); and this is also associated with early forms of neuropathy (loss of feeling or tingling sensation) in the feet and hands.

Symptoms to Watch For

Symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Unusual thirst * +
  • Frequent urination * +
  • Extreme hunger * +
  • Extreme fatigue and irritability * +
  • Unusual weight loss * +
  • Blurred vision +
  • Frequent infections +
  • Cuts or bruises that are slow to heal +
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet (neuropathy) +
  • Recurring skin, gum, or bladder infections +

* Type 1
+ Type 2

Diabetes and Your Feet

Diabetic foot blood flow

More than 25 million Americans have diabetes - 8 percent of the U.S. adult population. Foot problems are one of the biggest side effects of diabetes, including ulcerations, loss of circulation, and ultimately amputation. In 2006, about 65,700 non-traumatic lower-limb amputations were performed in people with diabetes. Every 30 seconds, somewhere in the world, a limb is amputated as a consequence of diabetes.

The most damaging problem for diabetics and their feet are foot ulcers (sores) that develop on the plantar (bottom) of the foot. The reason that the ulcers develop is because the patient cannot feel the bottom of their foot and minor trauma can result in openings in the skin, which lead to these ulcerations and eventually to serious infections and also loss of limb. The goal of treatment in diabetes with foot ulcers is to relieve the pressure, prevent infection and ultimately restore sensation to the foot so that loss of limb does not ensue. It is important that a patient with a foot ulcer consult their podiatrist, vascular surgeon, orthopedist or family doctor.

Many tests are employed to maintain a diabetic in good health, including blood test that monitor their fasting sugar, Hemoglobin A1C, which measures the response to sugar over time, MRI, x-rays and constant supervision of the patient.

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