Diabetes is a chronic disease state, in which the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or the body does not effectively utilize the insulin being produced. The result of such events is that an increased amount of glucose remains in the bloodstream. This is known as hyperglycemia. Uncontrolled hyperglycemia can lead to numerous medical conditions, and, in extreme cases, can be life-threatening. Prompt, early treatment is the best way to control the disease process and reduce the occurrence of associated complications.
According to the National Diabetes Fact Sheet (available through the American Diabetes Association), as of January 2011, there were 25.8 million children and adults in the United States with diabetes. Of that number, 18.8 million people were diagnosed, with an estimated 7.0 million people undiagnosed (yet diagnosed) with the chronic disease. Additionally, approximately, 79 million people were thought to be pre-diabetic.
In the United States, diabetes is ranked as the 7th leading cause of death. If current patterns continue, it was estimated that one in three American children born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes. Thus, it is critical for the health and welfare of our nation that we begin to understand the disease of diabetes, its implications, and what we can do to lower our risk of the disease and its associated complications.
Foot problems can occur in persons with diabetes, and these minor problems can quickly become serious. If a diabetic person has damage to their nervous system, they may not be able to feel their feet properly. Normal sweat secretion and oil production of the feet may be altered with diabetes. These factors contribute to a high risk situation, causing abnormal pressure on the skin, bones, and joints of the feet. This may lead to skin breakdown, with the development of open wounds
Persons with diabetes should have an annual foot examination by their physician. Additionally, they should examine their feet on a daily basis for any redness, open sores, or numbness. A commonly used test for detecting peripheral neuropathy (damage to the nerves supplying the feet, legs, hands, and arms) involves the physician pressing a Semmes–Weinstein monofilament, a flexible piece of nylon, against several places on the foot. The inability to sense the pressure of the filament at several points indicates neuropathy.
For more information on diabetic foot care, contact your local ADA chapter.