The Importance of Regular Foot Checkups When You Have Diabetes

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Along with your diabetes diagnosis, you have a long list of things of dos and don’ts. As you prioritize the ways to protect your health, you want to make sure that getting your feet checked is near the top of that list — here’s why.

Life with diabetes involves constant health monitoring to stabilize your blood glucose and minimize the disease’s impact on your body. And that includes your feet.

People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing foot health problems like neuropathy, ulcers, and infections. These issues can get serious quickly and might even lead to amputation if they’re not treated early. That's where diabetic foot exams come in, catching problems before they get out of hand. 

That’s also where we come in. Dr. Matthew Cerniglia and our team at Ankle and Foot Institute of Texas in Fort Worth keep an eye on your feet, giving you peace of mind knowing our experts will detect and treat any problems before they become serious. Here’s what to expect from a diabetic foot exam and why it’s important.

Diabetes and your feet

You know that diabetes involves problems with how your body makes and uses insulin, causing your blood sugar to spike. Unfortunately, uncontrolled high blood sugar wreaks havoc in your body, and your feet are prime targets.

Elevated glucose in your blood damages your blood vessels and nerves, especially those farthest from your heart. Diabetic neuropathy — nerve damage — is one of the most common complications, and it causes numbness and tingling in your lower extremities. 

When you lose feeling in your feet, you can’t feel pain, so you don’t know when you’ve scraped or cut yourself. You also can't tell when a blister or callus forms, so these problems can develop into open sores without your knowledge. 

Diabetes also inhibits your ability to heal because the condition compromises the blood flow to your feet. Without proper treatment, foot ulcers become infected and turn gangrenous, a condition in which your foot tissue dies and requires removal, even amputation.

How regular checkups can save your feet

With diabetes, you must check your feet diligently at home, follow careful foot care hygiene, monitor your blood sugar, and take any prescribed medication. However, even at-home checks can miss the early signs of foot problems, which is why seeing Dr. Cerniglia regularly is so important.

He checks for things you may not notice or have the ability to detect, such as 

  • Nerve damage
  • Blood flow changes
  • Foot conditions such as bunions or hammertoes
  • Calluses that indicate shoe rubbing
  • Slow-healing wounds

Having Dr. Cerniglia on your team ensures that your feet receive expert care, reducing your risk of infection and gangrene.

In addition to scheduling regular diabetic foot exams, see Dr. Cerniglia right away if you notice:

  • Painful spots on your feet
  • Warm, red, or swollen areas
  • Foul-smelling infections
  • Cuts and blisters that don’t heal
  • Calluses with dried blood inside

The solution could be as simple as changing your shoes. And you might need to manage your blood sugar better or undergo treatment to resolve your foot problem.

What to expect during a diabetic foot exam

Dr. Cerniglia starts all diabetic foot exams by discussing your medical history, medications, and any symptoms you’re experiencing. 

Skin check

The physical part of your exam includes a skin check, where Dr. Cerniglia looks for problems, such as open wounds, calluses, blisters, dry or cracked skin, bruises, and infections. He also checks your toenails for fungus and ensures that they’re a proper length and have no sharp edges. 

He also tests the temperature of each foot because if they’re not the same, it may indicate a problem. 

Blood vessel check

Dr. Cerniglia feels your pulse and compares the blood pressure measured at your ankle with the blood pressure measured on your arm. This is the ankle-brachial index test, and he uses it when he suspects a blood flow problem.

Nerve check

Because diabetes endangers your nerves, Dr. Cerniglia checks them using various tests. 

During the monofilament test, he gently touches your feet and ankles with a single strand of soft nylon to determine your ability to feel it. He may also use a pinprick test, pressing a small pin against your big toe. 

A tuning fork set against your ankle bone also gives him valuable information about your ability to feel sensations and vibrations. He also checks your reflexes using a small rubber hammer that he lightly taps on your Achilles tendon.

If Dr. Cerniglia finds anything concerning, he lets you know the necessary next steps. He may recommend diabetes-friendly shoes, specialized wound care, custom orthotics, multiwave locked system laser therapy, or shockwave therapy

Save your feet and your overall health by scheduling regular diabetic foot exams at Ankle and Foot Institute of Texas. Call or request an appointment online today.