BALTIMORE — Medical professionals are delivering the old catch phrase, “feet don’t fail me now” to help educate the public about the specific risks and foot complications faced by those with diabetes.
The American Podiatric Medical Association has started a “Reflect on Your Feet” campaign alerting individuals that diabetes can cause nerve damage called neuropathy, a loss of feeling in the feet.
“With diabetes a couple of different things occur and the most common we see is peripheral neuropathy where someone may have a numbness or tingling sensation that won’t go away,” said Dr. Rondrick Williamson, an African-American podiatrist who has been featured on television and in major U.S. magazines for his work. “Out of the 21 million Americans with diabetes, 60 percent will present with that type of symptom, which includes cold feet or numbness. It’s dangerous too because you could walk over a bucket of hot coals or a bed of nails and not know how bad it is.”
These injuries can become infected and can lead to amputation.
“Every 20 seconds, somewhere in the world a limb is lost as a result of diabetes,” said APMA President Phillip E. Ward.
“A daily foot self-exam, along with regular visits to a podiatrist, is the best way to prevent foot complications and amputation. If you have trouble reaching your feet to inspect them, prop up a mirror on the floor or ask a friend or family member to help.”
Podiatrists are physicians who are specially trained to treat foot conditions that can be caused by diabetes, such as neuropathy, infection, and ulcers. Studies have proven that podiatric medical care can reduce amputation rates by 45 to 85 percent, officials noted in a news release.
The “Reflect on Your Feet” campaign, occurring during November’s Diabetes Awareness Month, offers information about the specific risks associated with the disease, how to conduct a foot self-exam, when to see a podiatrist, and more.
For African-Americans, it’s especially important to get screened for diabetes, Williamson said.
“In the population the first thing is that it could be hereditary because of a lot of African-Americans have parents or grandparents who are diabetic,” he said. “In light of that, we need to think about our diet because we also tend to have hyper cholesterol and if there’s a lot of obesity in our family lineage it adds to all of those things being contributing factors.”
It’s vital to receive a diabetes screening if there is a family history, he said.
“Get screened periodically. Regardless of your age, as young as you are when you find out that your parents or family members have been diagnosed you should immediately be tested,” Williamson said.
It’s also important to conduct a foot self-exam, according to American Podiatric Medical Association officials.
A self-exam consists of checking for swelling, discoloration, excessive dry skin and looking between the toes for scrapes and cuts. This can be done using a mirror or having a family member or loved one perform the check.
“Make sure you follow up with a doctor at least twice a year and properly protect your feet,” Williamson said, noting that a diabetic patient shouldn’t expose their feet to the elements.
“If they are wearing flip-flops or something like that, they can easily get a rock in their shoe and walk on it for hours and not appreciate that it’s there,” Williamson said.
“Diabetics should avoid pedicures and manicures because they don’t want to risk bacteria, fungus or infection and they shouldn’t soak their feet in warm water because sometimes they can’t appreciate how hot the water is and they can get burned.”
Finally, Williamson said, everyone should be screened and those with diabetes should remain in contact with their podiatrist.
“Diabetes is a manageable condition,” he said. “I try to treat my patients like family and you have to be educated and know what looks normal and what doesn’t. You also have to be comfortable calling your doctor and telling the doctor if you think something is wrong.”
For more on the “Reflect on Your Feet” campaign and information about diabetes, visit www.apma.org/diabetes.