When people think of diabetic health issues they often think of heart, kidney or eye problems. However, one of the most common reasons for hospitalizations among diabetics are diabetic foot infections.
Diabetes effects the body’s ability to break down sugar. With excess sugar in the blood stream, the blood becomes “sticky”. The sticky blood then has a difficult time making it into the small blood vessels of the body-most commonly the eyes, heart, kidneys and FEET. The blood is also considered more acidic, due to the increased sugar content.
When the feet have decreased blood circulation to their small blood vessels and the blood takes on a more acidic nature, a triad of problems occur.
- Neuropathy: high sugar content in the blood deteriorates the nerves of the feet, often resulting in painful numbness called neuropathy. Often more dangerous that the painful burning and tingling is the numbness. Inability to properly sense the bottom of your feet can lead to possible injury without ever noticing the agitating factor. The skin’s nerves act as a line of defense, alerting the body to a sharp object, hot surface or point of pressure. With neuropathy, many diabetics do not sense an agitating factor (sharp object, hot surface or point of pressure) that can eventually cause a breakdown to the skin. Neuropathy has often been treated with difficult anti-seizure medicines. Today, FAS The Woodlands offers a very exciting new treatment for diabetic neuropathy consisting of quick and painless testing, vitamin and metabolism supplementation and more. We are happy to say that neuropathy can be cured, not just managed.
- Infection: High sugar content making the blood more acidic interferes with the body’s white blood cells. Your white blood cells find, fight and destroy bacteria. White blood cells are also necessary in wound healing. Without healthy blood, ulcers can not fight infection and can not heal.
- Decreased blood flow: GANGRENE! -the scariest word ever, right? Gangrene, simply put, is dead tissue. Given the information above you can see how this all ends up here. High blood sugar leads to acidic blood which interferes with white blood cells and deteriorates the nerves. Decreased nerve function leads to numbness. Numbness leads to ulcers, ulcers get infected and can’t heal. When infections progress and have diminished blood flow, tissue dies and often requires amputation. At FAS The Woodlands, Dr. Vaclaw has advanced wound care training from the Vascular Medicine department of The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. With this training he is able to provide the most recent forms of wound care treatment in including topical wound care, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and skin substitutes.
Each of these can occur independently, but at FAS The Woodlands our goal is to avoid them all. Controlling blood sugar through diet, having regular foot exams, evaluating blood flow and watching for signs of local infection (redness, warmth, drainage) can all lead to better foot health for the diabetic patient