A doctor will always advise a person that has recently been diagnosed with diabetes to keep a careful eye on the condition of their feet. They often do this because the condition of the feet is the most noticeable indication that diabetes complications are setting in and it gives the person a straight forward way to get more involved with their diabetes treatment and care. This article will describe why the feet are important in understanding diabetes and various conditions, like numbness, that may affect the feet as a consequence of diabetes.
Diabetes is a disease that affects the pancreas. It causes the beta cells of the islet cells in the pancreas to be destroyed or malfunction. The primary responsibility of these cells is to produce insulin which is used to regulate the glucose level in the bloodstream. Without insulin the body can not regulate the glucose and this poses serious consequences to the health if untreated. Commonly, insulin is injected to take over this process and the person has to manually manage the role of blood sugar regulation that most people take for granted.
It is believed that consistently high levels of sugar in the blood lead to a number of complications. In the case of feet, the first complication is that the circulation of blood is impeded. It is thought that high sugar levels in the blood affect the lining of blood vessels making them rough. This allows fatty deposits to stick to the lining and leads to arteriosclerosis. It is harder to push blood round the body and it is generally the outermost parts of the body that suffer the most.
This means the feet are liable to pick up cuts and bruises and take longer to heal from these problems.
Over time, continued poor circulation begins to affect the capillaries or small blood vessels that are responsible for providing blood to the nervous system and extremities of the body. Eventually the poor blood supply will cause the nervous system to malfunction. This is another complication of diabetes and is called diabetic neuropathy.
Diabetic neuropathy is broken down into 4 types, the one that concerns feet is called peripheral neuropathy. The person with peripheral neuropathy will lose sensation in their feet. This might take the form of pin and needles or a numbness. Having poor sensitivity in the feet that are already liable to infections, cuts and bruise makes the feet especially vulnerable.
Thus doctors advise on special care for feet and careful monitoring of their condition. If feet become numb for any time it is recommended to see your doctor. People with diabetes also get their feet checked annually or bi-annually where the doctor will check the sensitivity in their feet. This can also determine if neuropathy in the feet is worsening by comparison to the previous year and thus give an overall indication on how diabetes is affecting the body.