If you are diabetic, hopefully you already understand how necessary it is to have a foot care plan in place! A plan is essential for reducing your risk of severe medical complications, and part of the reason why you need to have a diabetic foot care plan is because of the effect diabetes has on your circulatory system.
Your body relies on several different systems—like your nervous, immune, and respiratory systems—to keep you alive. Another important one is the circulatory system, which is responsible for circulating blood to and from the heart throughout the body via a network of blood vessels (arteries, veins, capillaries).
Put simply, you need this circulation to happen because the tissues forming in your body require oxygen and nutrients to survive. Blood going from the heart carries these essential elements to all areas of the body in your arteries, and then returns it back to the heart through your veins to become oxygenated again before heading back out. This cycle continues repeatedly, without you having to give it any thought.
Now, diabetes negatively affects the various systems in your body. Elevated glucose (sugar) levels in the blood stream impair the immune system and damage essential nerve tissues. The heightened blood sugar levels can also cause your blood vessels to become constricted, which is why the disease comes with increased risk of heart attacks and stroke.
The reduced blood flow is especially bad news for your feet.
If you think about it, your lower limbs are already farther from the heart than any other points on your body. When arteries are constricted, it is harder for oxygenated blood to get down there. This means body tissues—including bones in your feet—are weakened and your body isn’t able to repair itself or fight infection as well.
We mentioned weakened foot bones because one of the serious problems from diabetes that can be attributed to the poor circulation is a condition known as Charcot foot. With Charcot foot, weakened foot bones are easily broken (even from usage during normal activities). Since diabetes usually impairs the nervous system, you won’t be able to feel this happen. As a result of not knowing there’s a problem, you will continue to perform normal activities. This results in greater damage. The cycle can continue until a foot is severely misshapen or, in severe cases, needs to be amputated.
In addition to Charcot foot, restricted circulation also plays a role in diabetic foot ulcers. Your body relies on blood flow to heal damaged areas. When wounds heal slowly, it gives time for microorganisms to enter the body and cause dangerous infections. This is a serious medical situation – one that needs to be avoided at all costs. Diabetic foot ulcers are a leading cause of lower limb amputations and have a high mortality rate (greater than that of colon, prostate, and breast cancers).
No matter if it happens on account of diabetes, or otherwise, constricted blood flow can be a real problem for your feet. If you need a diabetic foot care plan to protect your feet (and you absolutely do need one if you have diabetes!), or are seeking treatment to improve circulation to your lower limbs, contact our team here at Southern Oregon Foot & Ankle.
Connect with our Medford, OR office by filling out our online form or, even better, give us a call at (541) 776-3338 and we will be glad to help!