by Dr. Steven Waldman
Did you know that a diabetic should see a podiatrist on a regular basis? There are many reasons for this need, but the most concerning is the risk of Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy. There are many reasons that Peripheral Neuropathy can happen in diabetic patients. What is Peripheral Neuropathy? The basic idea is that with high blood sugar levels your peripheral nerves (the nerves around your body excluding the brain and spinal cord) can be damaged. Some studies show that as high as fifty percent of all diabetic patients have some degree of Peripheral Neuropathy.
A person with a Peripheral Neuropathy has at least one nerve that fails to send a signal back to the brain. The nerve could have been damaged in a variety of ways, but the end result is a loss of sensation. The symptoms of this damage can range from numbness or tingling in the respective area, to a loss of muscle control. Lack of sensation in a limb can be very dangerous.
One of the most common areas to be affected by Peripheral Neuropathy is the legs and feet. Loss of sensation in the legs and feet is a very serious issue. In extreme cases, a patient could step on a nail and not feel it at all. This nail could even puncture through the patients shoe, driving foreign materials (along with the nail itself) into their foot. Hopefully, this patient was educated to constantly check their feet for wounds, regardless of how they feel. If not, the nail or other injury to your foot could progress to become infected to such a degree that an amputation is required. Loss of sensation can also lead to a loss of balance, increasing the risk for falls and other injuries.
Of course, every case is not this extreme, but it is possible. In the end, a regular check up with a Podiatrist can help decrease the possibility of such a severe outcome. A podiatrist can quickly (and painlessly) check for Peripheral Neuropathies – an accurate diagnosis is the first step in getting help. Your podiatrist will also asses any injuries that may have occurred since your last visit. Bring your typical shoes and socks to your appointment – your doctor will want to check what you are wearing and may make reccomendations for a change in foot gear. Your podiatrist can also create a fall prevention program just for you. It may include exercise, a brace or orthotics, and physical therapy. Check in with your local podiatrist as soon as possible to set up a schedule for regular diabetic foot care!