If you've just been recently diagnosed with diabetes, you may be making big lifestyle changes, such as managing your blood sugar with insulin shots, taking medications, changing your diet, and exercising. While your primary-care provider may have recommended regular visits, another specialist that you should regularly see is a podiatrist.
Why Are Diabetics at Risk for Foot Problems?
Diabetics can develop a condition called sensory neuropathy—a condition that damages the nerves in your legs in feet. If you have neuropathy, you may have weak muscles and bones in your feet (known as "Charcot foot"). Neuropathy may also decrease your ability to feel temperature or sensation in your feet.
Unfortunately, diabetes can also cause poor circulation, meaning that you can have slow healing times. If you get a cut or injury on your foot, you may not notice it due to the neuropathy. Because poor circulation causes slow healing, you are more prone to foot infections and ulcers.
Ulcers can make you sick and cause pain if they become infected. If they aren't taken care of right away, then they may become non-healing and require amputation.
What Can a Podiatrist Do to Help?
First, a podiatrist can provide foot exams so that he or she can see the extent of your neuropathy. A podiatrist can perform a filament test to assess any nerve damage you might have and help you keep it from spreading. A filament test is easy to perform. A doctor will brush soft nylon over areas of skin to test sensitivity levels.
If you do have neuropathy, your podiatrist can set you up with comfortable shoe orthotics and braces to prevent Charcot foot and micro-fractures. Your podiatrist can also set you up with special diabetic socks that increase circulation and have antimicrobial properties.
He or she can also prescribe medications to relieve pain or pins-and-needle sensations you might experience from neuropathy. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, anti-seizure medications, and even some anti-depressants can possibly be used to treat nerve pain.
Lastly, your podiatrist can teach you how to conduct foot exams at home and show you what you need to keep an eye out for. For example, your podiatrist may want you to not only keep an eye on calluses but to also monitor the temperature of your foot. Higher skin temperatures indicate a higher chance of inflammation and ulceration. If you monitor your foot temperature regularly, you'll be able to catch issues early on.
Contact a podiatrist in your area for more information about how to treat peripheral neuropathy or visit websites like https://www.familyfootcenter.net/ to learn more.