Diabetes type 2: Dr Zoe Williams discusses high blood sugar risks
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Foot problems are often associated with diabetes, but the risk of losing a toe, foot or leg can be minimised by looking after your health and treating your feet well. A health advisory from the national institute of diabetes and digestive and kidney diseases (NIDDK) has warned about the potential harm of unregulated blood glucose on the limbs. High blood glucose levels can result in progressively worsening nerve damage. This might begin with tingling and pain, and progress into a loss of sensation.
When the nerves of your feet are too damaged for you to feel pain it can become very difficult to identify when your foot is injured.
Something as simple as a pebble in your shoe can cause cuts and sores if you aren’t aware of its presence.
Diabetes can also slow the speed at which you heal from wounds, as your immune system becomes less active.
These can become infected, causing more severe damage that is also hidden by the lack of sensation.
It is when these infections are unresponsive to treatment that amputation can become necessary to prevent it from spreading.
The best way to avoid these complications of diabetes is to take care in managing the condition.
The NIDDK recommends that you consult with your doctor to put together a care plan on managing your blood sugar.
This can be done through a combination of diet, medication exercise and might also include targets for healthy blood glucose ratings.
This will also include care procedures for looking after your feet so they do not become damaged or infected.
NIDDK’s advice is to examine your feet daily for potential problems that might be hidden by reduced sensation.
Obvious points of concern include cuts, sores and inflamed blisters.
Corns and calluses – patches of rough skin caused by continuous pressure – may be a sign that your footwear is not conforming properly to the shape of your foot.
They recommend against the use of over-the-counter corn and callus removal products, as these can damage the skin.
There are also methods to improve blood flow both through the legs and more generally that are important to follow ifyou are at risk from diabetes.
Exercise can improve blood flow, but if you have nerve damage you should choose activities that are easy on the feet and unlikely to cause injury.
This includes swimming, yoga, cycling and dance, but it can also help to do small exercises throughout the day such as wiggling your toes and moving your ankles while seated.
There are also behaviours that can worsen blood flow, such as smoking, that increase the risk and severity of diabetes.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that results from either a lack of the hormone insulin or a loss in effect of the insulin your body produces.
Insulin is responsible for removing sugar from the blood, so without it your blood sugar can spike dangerously high in the period of time after you eat.
Certain factors can make you more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, where your cells become less receptive to insulin.
Being overweight or inactive can increase your risk, along with a family history of diabetes.
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