Declared as the “Diabetes Alert Day” by the American Diabetes Association to bring awareness to the risks and of undiagnosed or untreated diabetes.
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This Diabetes Alert Day is observed on the fourth Tuesday, of every month of March, as a “Wake Up Call” for everyone to take their health into their own hands (and feet) and catch diabetes before the many serious complications associated with the disease develop. Foot care is extremely important in diabetic patients and daily self-exams of the feet are needed to keep feet healthy.
Over nine percent of the United States population has diabetes. This would mean that approximately 1.6 million people in New York are affected by this disease. All of these diabetic individuals may not know exactly what to look for or why they need to conduct a self-exam of the feet. The key role of the foot exam is to identify a potential site of a foot ulcer before it starts or when in it is still in its early stages. In the US, the risk for foot ulceration is 2% annually in diabetic patients. Applied to the estimated diabetic population of New York, this would be about 394,867 individuals developing a foot ulcer each year.
Self-foot exam should begin with a general inspection with shoes and socks off in a well-lit area and assistance from another person needed. Shoes and socks should be examined for proper fit and to ensure that there are no foreign objects adhered inside. A shoe that is too small or rubs excessively in a prominent area of the foot generates pressure and friction that can cause an ulcer. Diabetic individuals with peripheral neuropathy, or loss of sensation in their feet need to be especially careful to look out for potential irritants because they are unable to feel the normal pain associated with the development of foot injury. Skin changes should also be noted for signs of ulcer development and infection. Calluses and corns are indicative of an area of increased pressure on the foot that is at risk of ulceration. Foot deformities are often affected by these pressure areas, which is why surgical correction of foot deformity plays a key role in ulcer prevention and care. Ingrown toenails are a serious matter in diabetic patients, in whom the nail changes could lead to infection including osteomyelitis, or bone infection, of the toe bone that lies directly under the nail. Redness surrounding any wound, callus or ingrown toenail can be an indication of infection. Temperature differences between the feet should also be noted. Increased temperature in a foot can be a sign of infection, or the serious joint collapse disease known as Charcot neuroarthropathy. Cold feet can indicateproblems with blood flow which may also lead to ulcer development. By conducting regular self-exams of the foot and contacting your podiatrist at the first signs of changes, foot complications that occur with diabetes can be identified early and treated can be initiated. In the spirit of Diabetes Alert Day, people can also take the Diabetes Risk Test to identify their risk level for developing diabetes and receive preventative tips.
By John Jurcisin