Monday, October 6, 2014

Q&A with Dr. William Knudson: Diabetes and Foot Care

According to Dr. William Knudson, patients with diabetes have an increased risk of ulcers and damage to the feet. These issues can include bunions, calluses, fungal infections, dryness of the skin, and ingrown toenails. However, many diabetes-related foot problems can be prevented by good control of blood sugar levels combined with appropriate care of the feet, says Dr. Knudson.

Q: How does diabetes cause foot problems?

Dr. William Knudson: Diabetes causes damage to blood vessels and peripheral nerves in the legs and feet.  Peripheral artery disease and peripheral neuropathy are responsible for foot problems in people with diabetes.

Q: What is an example of the more severe cases of foot problems caused by diabetes?

Dr. William Knudson: Ulcers may develop. If the tissues continue to receive insufficient oxygen, tissue death or gangrene occurs. Gangrene is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition. Other potentially serious problems include cellulitis and osteomyelitis.

Q: How are these cases typically treated?

Dr. William Knudson: Gangrene cannot be reversed, but there are treatments to prevent gangrene from spreading or becoming infected. Surgical removal of the dead tissue is typically required, and antibiotics are given to prevent life-threatening infections in the dead tissue. In severe cases, amputation of the affected part may be needed.

Q: Can diabetes-related foot problems be prevented?

Dr. William Knudson: Yes, some diabetes foot-related problems can be prevented. Keeping blood sugar levels under control and following a recommended diet and exercise program are the best way to prevent all complications of diabetes. But there are other steps an individual can take to care for his or her feet, such as wearing comfortable shoes, washing the feet and applying lotion, and trimming toenails. Life-long monitoring of the feet is essential for the best outcome of foot problems caused by diabetes.