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What is a diabetic foot?
Diabetes can cause foot problems, such as damage to the nerves or blood vessels, that can lead to people losing feeling in their feet. As a result of this, you may be unable to feel even the slightest cut or blister which can go unnoticed for weeks or months.
The biggest problem with this is that it can eventually become an ulcer or infection, and in severe cases, may require amputation. This becomes worse as the damage to blood vessels reduces blood flow and oxygen delivery, which slows down the healing process.
Nerve conditions are generally quite difficult to understand as there are several causes that could contribute to their development. These factors impact the function of the three types of nerves —autonomic, motor and sensory.
Amongst the many types of nerve conditions, peripheral neuropathy has been studied and researched in great detail. Peripheral neuropathy (PN) is a disease or condition that affects the nerves which affects movement, sensation and muscle strength.
You may, as a result, experience difficulty in walking because of weakened muscles at the bottom of the foot. Since obesity is closely linked to diabetes, the extra weight may only further slow you down.
This can create problems for an obese person trying to lose weight and who is at a higher risk of cardiac diseases. It is also likely that a combination of diabetes and obesity may eventually cause a flatfoot posture to develop.
Foot problems such as flat feet can be likely causes of diabetic foot ulcers. Flat feet cause uneven distribution of pressure to the feet as the foot arch flattens onto the ground. This increases the risk of inflammation in the stress-prone areas of the foot.
A common complication of diabetes is foot infection. This infection could belong to one of three categories: mild, moderate or severe. If left untreated, a mild or moderate infection could become severe in nature.
It is necessary to spot and treat diabetic foot infection in its early stages to prevent it from spreading to the rest of the foot. The lack of sensation in a diabetic foot, however, can make it difficult to detect the presence of an infection.
Any type of damage to the foot’s skin or the development of ulcers increases the risk of infection since an open wound provides a pathway for micro-organisms to enter the wound and multiply.
Diabetic foot risk factors
As a diabetic, it may help you to know about a few factors which can be easily avoided to protect you from foot problems such as ulcers.
The prevention and management of foot ulcers, especially if you have diabetic feet, is very important to protect you from more serious foot problems.
Poor management of foot ulcers, in severe cases, may increase the risk of amputations.
For example, if you have any of these risk factors – low immune function, nerve damage, poor blood flow, foot posture problems or movement disorders – you should consider getting your feet frequently examined for infections.
According to a study by the European Study Group on Diabetes and the Lower Extremity, peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage) and peripheral arterial disease (narrowing of blood vessels) were identified as major risk factors in developing diabetic foot ulcers. The conditions were present in 49% and 86% of the patients respectively.
Besides causing a number of health complications, smoking has been proven to increase the chances of ulcerations in diabetics; if you have diabetes, it is advisable to stop smoking in order to prevent ulcers and foot infections.
A 2015 study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine established that smoking contributed to reduced muscle mass and strength. It outlined that smokers have weaker muscles which are less fatigue-resistant than those of non-smokers.
The risk of fractures can also be associated with the wide-spread effects of smoking on vascular health, oxygen supply, muscle strength and overall muscle performance. The negative effects of smoking may affect balance in individuals, thereby increasing the risk of fall injuries.
Increasing age can also make you vulnerable to chronic wounds, as older cells lack the capability to recover faster and are less responsive to stress.
Years of impact on the feet from walking and doing physical activities may cause the bottom surface of the feet to lose cushioning, especially in the heel pad. The skin may also become thinner and lose elasticity, which increases the risk of infections and injuries.
The ligaments and tendons in the foot and ankle may not stretch and contract normally, causing loss of elasticity. For instance, if the plantar fascia ligament, that runs through the bottom of the foot, loses elasticity, it may not be able to support the foot arch properly. This could cause the foot arch to collapse under bodyweight, which can create abnormal movements in the foot and ankle.
Weight-related issues can also act as a contributing factor in the formation of foot ulcers. This is because of increased pressure on the feet which can create ‘hot spots’ or high-stress regions.
Obesity can increase the risk of cardiac-related diseases and make it increasingly difficult for you to keep the excessive weight off the feet.
Foot posture problems, such as flat feet, can also be a contributing factor for foot ulcers. As the foot flattens on the ground, it may cause uneven distribution of pressure to the feet, which increases the risk of inflammation in stress-prone areas.
Diabetic foot preventive steps
Diabetic feet should be taken seriously and appropriate steps must be followed to prevent the condition from worsening. Managing blood glucose levels and observing a daily foot care regimen can help keep the feet healthy.
Your diabetic foot care routine should involve regular checking of feet for any open wounds that could potentially become infected.
Diabetic foot infections can be easily avoided by following some simple preventive measures to protect the feet from ulcers or wounds.
It is important to note that while not all ulcers may be infected, these still require appropriate care and must be examined by a diabetes specialist, irrespective of whether they are infected or not.
Anytime you notice redness, warmth, swelling, pain and discharge, visit a physician who can carefully inspect the infected wound or ulcer and recommend treatment options.
In most cases, an antibiotic regimen may be suggested for treating mild or moderate infections. Severe infections may require hospitalisation, but this will depend on the extent and severity of the condition.
Comfortable footwear is recommended for diabetic feet to prevent ulcers and infections from getting worse. Proper cushioning is also essential for wound management and for preventing injuries from occurring. This
is why highly customised insoles can be an essential part of a personalised supportive treatment for diabetic feet.
After examining a person’s medical history, foot structure, weight distribution to the feet and any existing blisters or infections, the health care professional can prepare an appropriate preventative care strategy.
MASS4D® Insoles can help diabetic feet
Customised foot insoles such as MASS4D® can be recommended to provide proper cushioning and promote normal distribution of weight throughout the feet.
This reduces stress on the bottom surface of the foot which is crucial in preventing ulcers and infections from getting worse.
What makes MASS4D® custom insoles for diabetic foot ideal is the Bi-Lam top cover, made exclusively for diabetic patients and people with insensate foot symptoms.
It is thick enough to provide adequate cushioning, and soft enough to be worn comfortably on a daily basis.
The Bi-Lam cover features a double layer cushion that protects against blisters and ulcerations. It offers adequate heel and forefoot support to reduce pressure on the bottom of the foot.
To help avoid putting pressure on your wounds and injuries, cut-outs can be made to the diabetic foot insoles. The outer sides of the cover are also soft, which prevent injuries that are otherwise common with other insoles.
The use of custom foot insoles can help in minimising stress in the ‘at-risk’ areas while promoting an equal distribution of weight in the feet.
By making full contact with your feet, these insoles provide the support needed to achieve a healthy foot posture and reduce abnormalities in foot movement.
Moreover, MASS4D® custom insoles help you stay on your feet longer so you can remain active with walking and exercises. This lessens the possibility of developing other diabetic complications such as heart diseases, kidney disease or stroke.
Contact us today and we’ll put you in touch with a certified MASS4D® provider in your area.