Take the Steps Toward Healthier Feet
On Thursday, Aug. 5, from 7 to 8 p.m., Washington Hospital Medical Staff podiatrist Jorge E. Alaniz, D.P.M., will present a free Diabetes Matters seminar focusing on how to protect foot health when you have diabetes.
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), 23.6 million children and adults in the United States—7.8 percent of the population—have diabetes, which can lead to severe complications. These include heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, blindness and kidney disease. But diabetes can also directly affect foot health.
"It’s very important that people with diabetes learn about prevention and taking care of their feet so they can help minimize problems," according to Dr. Alaniz.
During his talk, he will explain how poor circulation due to narrowing of the arteries and loss of sensation due to nerve damage can contribute to serious problems in the lower extremities, such as ulcerations and wounds that fail to heal.
According to the ADA, diabetes-specific foot conditions include:
Changes to foot/toe shape Skin changes Calluses Ulcers
Changes to foot/toe shape: Diabetes can contribute to changes in the shape of the feet and toes, which can be aggravated by ill-fitting shoes.
Skin changes: A reduction in the skin’s natural moisture can result in drying and cracking of the heels, which can increase the chances of infection.
Calluses: High-pressure areas under the foot can lead to quicker build up of thick skin on the feet of people with diabetes.
Ulcers: Calluses can get very thick, break down, and turn into open sores known as ulcers, which often occur on the ball of the foot or on the bottom of the big toe.
In individuals without diabetes these foot ailments may not have a serious health impact. But an estimated 60 percent to 70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nerve damage known as neuropathy, according to the ADA.
Neuropathy can cause pain, but it also can reduce the ability to feel pain, heat, and cold—which means sufferers may not feel a foot injury. As a result, damage to the foot could go unnoticed and lead to infection. Moreover, poor circulation may make it more difficult for the infection to heal.
"Prevention is the goal," says Dr. Alaniz. "Although we will talk about the foot and how each of those structures—including blood vessels, skin, bone and nerve tissue—can be affected by diabetes, the anatomy is not as important as what you can do to prevent disease.
During his talk, Dr. Alaniz will address proper foot care and maintenance techniques and how to prevent foot damage, including regular check-ups with a physician. He recommends that patients check their feet frequently and know the warning signs of foot complications, but he stresses that regular doctor visits are essential, especially if for individuals who already have lost some feeling in their feet.
Healthy feet are also extremely for people with diabetes for another reason. Exercise, according to Dr. Alaniz, plays a vital role in managing diabetes.
"Walking is still one of the best exercises—and not walking because your feet hurt is one of the main reasons why people come to a podiatrist," Dr. Alaniz says. "But it’s important to remember that when people are more active, they also need to be aware of foot gear and check for foot problems often."
He will also cover some important tips to avoiding problems.
"Hydrating the skin daily to avoid wounds, excoriation, fissuring is important.
We’ll also talk about shoes during the lecture and why you should only wear new shoes for just a few hours at a time for the first three days, especially if you have neuropathy."
Some other simple steps for alleviating or preventing diabetes-related foot problems include:
- Avoiding walking barefoot because it puts you at risk of serious injury that will be difficult to heal.
- Paying close attention when trimming your toenails, or have a professional do it.
- Examining your feet for ingrown toenails and calluses because you may not be able to feel them if you have lost sensation in your feet.
To learn more about steps you can take to improve foot health, join Dr. Alaniz for his Diabetes Matters seminar on Thursday, Aug. 5, from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue. Registration is not required.
For more information about the Diabetes Matters program, call (510) 745-6556 or visit www.whhs.com/diabetes.
To find a podiatrist near you, visit www.whhs.com/physicians.