Considering there are currently 29+ million people in the United States who are diabetic—along with another 84+ million adults over the age of 20 who have prediabetes—this disease is obviously a major concern from a nationwide perspective.
On an individual level, diabetes is a major concern because it causes wide-ranging issues throughout the body. Unfortunately, far too little attention is given to the lower limbs – and even less so for skin care. This can be a major mistake, however!
One of the key problems with diabetes is the fact elevated sugar levels in the blood stream cause nerve damage (neuropathy). Damaged nerves can cause pain and make you feel sensations you shouldn’t feel. Even more concerning is when neuropathy causes numbness in your lower limbs. In this case, small issues can escalate quickly.
Although diabetes is the most common culprit of nerve damage and numbness in the lower limbs, there are many possible causes. Basically, anything that damages or impairs the nerves in your lower limbs can be a cause of neuropathy, including:
- Infections – Some viral and bacterial infections can affect your nerve, including Lyme disease, leprosy, hepatitis C, HIV, and diphtheria.
- Trauma, pressure, and tumors – Tumors that compress nerves and injuries that pinch or even sever nerve tissue can cause intense pain and significant numbness.
- Autoimmune diseases and inherited conditions – Certain diseases attack or impact your nerves, including lupus, Sjorgren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and Guillain-Barre syndrome, among others.
- Medications – Certain medications damage nerves as an unfortunate side effect. Chemotherapy for treating cancer has a high risk for this.
- Vitamin deficiencies – Your body needs particular vitamins for healthy nerves, so being deficient in vitamin B (especially B-1, B-6, and B-12), vitamin E, and niacin over time can damage your nervous tissue.
- Poisons and alcoholism – Being exposed to toxins, or living with alcoholism for many years (which is related to poor dietary choices and subsequent vitamin deficiencies), can take a toll on nerve function.
- Other disorders – Kidney disease, bone marrow disorders, liver disease, and hypothyroidism can all contribute to peripheral neuropathy.
Neuropathy puts your body at risk for serious medical conditions when you cannot feel pain. See, pain is how your body lets you know there’s a problem. If you cannot feel, you don’t know if there is a problem in your lower limbs, including skin issues often noticed on account of itching, burning, or other sensations.
Proper skin care for those afflicted with neuropathy include taking measures to keep your feet dry, but not too dry. Wearing footwear made from breathable materials is one way to prevent feet from becoming too damp. Using approved moisturizers on the tops and bottoms—but not between toes (due to increased risk of bacterial or fungal growth)—will help ensure the skin doesn’t become dry to the point it starts to crack and fissure.
The nature of the treatment for a skin condition will certainly depend on the situation (what is happening, how long the problem has been present, etc.). Something not situation-dependent is the fact you should seek professional care for any health problem that arises. Even something that might not seem like a really big problem—ingrown toenails, calluses, tiny scrapes—can become quite concerning when neuropathy is in the picture.
For those who have neuropathy as a result of diabetes, a key component to keeping feet safe is to have a comprehensive diabetic foot care plan in place. This plan needs to be centered on preventing problems, detecting them early (when they do arise), and then seeking treatment at the earliest possible opportunity. Part of this includes also regularly-scheduled appointments with our office (so we can make sure there are no concerning issues).
If you need to create a diabetic foot care plan, have discovered a potential problem and need treatment, or simply have any questions regarding this important matter, simply contact Parker Foot & Ankle. You can either take advantage of our online form to connect with us or call (281) 497-2850 and speak with one of our team members.