Can You Feel It: Caring For Your Feet With Diabetic Nerve Damage
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When you have diabetes, regular foot exams are an absolute must. In fact, foot-related problems are the most common reason why someone with diabetes is hospitalized. Furthermore, diabetics are more likely to have a toe, foot or leg amputated compared to the rest of the population. Why? The reason is due to a condition called diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) – nerve damage that’s brought on by chronic high blood sugar. Problems arise when the condition is left untreated and with 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes expected to develop DPN at some point in their lifetime, it seems to be a growing problem within the community.
BlackDoctor.org recently spoke with Dr. Ali Sadrieh, a LA-based foot surgeon to learn more about how to manage DPN, but more importantly, how to prevent it from happening in the first place.
BlackDoctor.org: What is the importance of getting regular foot exams when you have diabetes?
Dr. Ali Sadrieh: It prevents amputation because diabetic peripheral neuropathy means lack of flow, structural problems like bunions and hammertoes and that can lead to wounds and those wounds can then get infected. In my experience, people who lose their limbs – it’s because of the lack of preventative follow ups. It’s just like when you go to the dentist to prevent cavities. Seeing a podiatrist regularly to prevent these type of problems is a huge thing.
BlackDoctor.org: That makes a lot of sense and as a foot surgeon, what are you specifically looking for during these foot exams?
Dr. Sadrieh: You look for structural problems so any kind of structural pathology so if there’s a bunion, a hammertoe – any kind of pressure point, any area of difficulty in the foot structure in relation to the shoe.
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The second component that the doctor would look for is whether or not there’s good blood flow in the toes so they check the pulses and see if they can feel the pulses in the ultrasound.
The third component is more critical, which is what does the skin look like? Are there areas that are callousing, are there openings, lesions, cracks? Is the hair growth normal? What do the nails look like – are they fungal or not, are they brittle? All of these things are clues as to what’s going on inside.