DEAR MAYO CLINIC: I recently was diagnosed with diabetes and am learning about various components of my health care that require special attention. For instance, I was told I'd need to take special care of my feet. Can you explain why foot care is so important and what is necessary? Do I need to see a special type of doctor?
ANSWER: You're among the millions of people in the U.S. who have been diagnosed with diabetes. Managing your medications, adapting your diet and incorporating activity into your lifestyle are important for managing this disease. Foot care also plays a big part in maintaining your health.
Two complications of diabetes are nerve damage and restricted blood flow to the legs and feet. Both increase the risk of various foot complications. Nerve damage decreases the feeling in your feet, a condition called peripheral neuropathy. Reduced blood flow to the feet makes it harder to heal an injury or resist infection. Left untreated, even minor cuts and blisters can become serious infections that ultimately may require toe, foot or leg amputation.
This is why it's important to have a podiatrist on your care team. Podiatrists are doctors who specialize in conditions of the foot and ankle, including complications related to diabetes. Working closely with your podiatrist can reduce the risk of developing foot, ankle and leg issues, such as neuropathic ulcers, infections, nerve and bone damage, Charcot neuroarthropathy (joint damage) — and even amputations. Studies have shown that patients with a diabetic foot ulcer who have a podiatrist on their team can reduce amputations by 36%.
If you don't have any diabetes-related foot and ankle complications, it's still recommended that you see your podiatrist every year.
During this visit, your podiatrist will help you put your best foot forward by:
You should see your podiatrist at least every six months if you've been diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy or have a personal history of diabetes-related complications.
In addition to examinations by a health care professional, developing a daily at-home foot care routine is an important aspect of managing foot health.
This four-step routine can minimize serious infections and injuries:
Here are a few other things to keep in mind:
Once you're in the groove of your new foot-care routine, it will seem like second nature. And your feet will thank you for it. The key to keeping your best foot forward is catching an injury early and treating it appropriately. — Dr. Stephanie Kvas, Podiatry, Mayo Clinic Health System, New Prague, Minnesota