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Why It’s Important to Listen to Your Feet

One in every 10 people have it. More than seven million have it and don’t know it. It affects every major system of the body. What is it?  Diabetes. More than 30 million Americans are living with diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is the number one cause of blindness, kidney failure and amputation.

Your body sends you signals all the time. The thing is, we often don’t listen, ignoring the signs as part of getting older, putting it off for a less busy time or for fear that something might be really wrong. It’s important, no matter what your health status is, to pay attention to what your body is telling you. When you listen, you have the potential to reduce and sometimes even prevent long-term effects. Catching things early gives you the best opportunity for getting better and staying healthy.

So, what should you “listen” for? It’s important for you to monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol, quit or don’t start smoking and pay attention to your feet. Yes, your feet. there are symptoms that show up in your feet that can alert you and your doctor to the early signs of diabetes. And if you have diabetes, you can reduce some of the risks that come with the disease.

Having diabetes puts people at higher risk for foot problems that can lead to amputation if they are not cared for. Diabetes causes more than 60% of amputations from the knee down for people not involved in an accident. If you ignore sores that won’t heal, they most likely will get worse and that’s when you run the risk of losing a toe or a foot. When that happens to one leg, the likelihood of it happening to the other is increased during the next five years. Once you start down that path, your lifespan becomes shorter, in many cases, less than five years. One of the most important things people with diabetes can do to lower their risk for amputation is to check their feet every day.

What should you be checking for? Sores, redness, swelling and any other changes to the way your feet look or feel should be reported to your doctor right away. Waiting to see if something will go away on its own may let a small problem become a big problem in a hurry. It’s important to seek help at the first sign of any issue, no matter how small it may seem.

Burning, tingling and numbness are also common symptoms for people with diabetes. Many people with diabetes can’t feel their feet because of their condition, which is another reason why you must pay attention to them in other ways. For instance, you get a rock in your shoe. Because of your diabetes, you don’t feel it, so it stays in there and you’re constantly stepping on it, which can create a sore that you may not feel, just like you didn’t feel the rock. That’s why you have to look at your feet every day. Just because they don’t hurt, doesn’t mean they’re okay.

Every person with diabetes should have a team of doctors working together. Most primary care physicians and endocrinologists encourage their patients to develop a strong relationship with a foot doctor. Regular visits to a podiatrist help diabetics keep their feet. Together, we can reduce the risks of many of the problems diabetics face.

If you are one of those Americans who doesn’t know you have diabetes, looking at your feet may help discover if you do have diabetes. Your feet are like a canary in a coal mine. They can give you an advanced warning of diabetes. The first thing is to notice how your legs and feet feel. You might be experiencing muscle weakness in your legs, swelling, redness, numbness, pain or cold feet. If your feet feel cold most of the time, it could be because of poor circulation. Poor circulation is a warning sign that you might have undiagnosed diabetes. High blood sugar levels related to diabetes may cause your arteries to narrow. When this happens, it reduces the amount of blood supply to your feet, which can make them feel cold.

If you notice any of these symptoms, talk with your doctor so together you can learn what’s causing them. Whether it’s diabetes or not, the earlier you identify what’s going on, the better your chances are for managing it. The key is to listen to what your feet are telling you; they know more than you think. FBN

By Dr. Shahram Askari

Dr. Shahram Askari is a podiatrist at Comprehensive Integrated Care in Flagstaff.

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