Diabetic foot complications are becoming the leading cause of non-traumatic, lower limb amputation in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. New research states that preventative care by podiatrists can reduce the risk of diabetic amputation by nearly 29 percent.
Feet often mirror a person's general health. Early changes can be indicators of vascular and nerve disease. Circulatory disorders often signal diabetes. In all actual fact, diabetes is a small vessel disease. Because the feet are so far from the heart and nerve systems, they are more susceptible to problems. The blood flow has to course through the smaller branches to get to the feet.
Today our main concern is preventative, pre-ulcer wounds, which can lead to risk of hospitalization and possible amputation. In the field of diabetic wound care, we now have a better understanding of the goals and new treatments to try. In the hands of specialists, who have trained in wound-care centers with the latest and newest techniques, patients are improving and are less likely to suffer hospitalization or amputation than those who do not receive care.
The word exercise has been forgotten with the diabetic patient. However, as long as the primary physician gives medical clearance, there is no reason why a diabetic patient cannot improve his or her cardiovascular fitness system and preservation of tissue with regular exercise.
Exercise will help the blood sugar levels, heart rate and cholesterol. It may also stimulate weight loss if one is overweight. Australian researchers found that with exercise and Type 1 diabetes, blood sugar control improved and A1C levels improved 30 percent.
It is of the utmost importance to choose an exercise that is a good fit with one's own cardiovascular endurance. In other words, you don't have to run or spend hours at the gym. One of the greatest exercises is to walk, bike if your joints hurt, or swim.
The important thing to remember is to get out there and move about. Also, seek out professionals who are able to provide you with the correct diabetic foot care.
Dr. Robert Weiss lives in Westport and has a sports-podiatry practice in Darien. Dr. Weiss is a former marathon runner and served as a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the 1984 and the 1988 United States Olympic Trials.