How Blood Sugar Can Impact Your Foot Health
There is the domino effect, where one thing can lead to another. Then there’s the snowball effect, where one small thing can grow worse and worse, until it’s an undeniable threat.
When it comes to high blood sugar (glucose) and its effects on your foot health, think snowballs set up like dominoes.
Yes, it can be—and often has been—that bad. One thing can lead to another, and it all just gets worse and worse until the risk of amputation or even death via infection comes into play.
To understand how blood sugar can affect your feet so negatively, it’s best to rewind closer to the beginning.
Beginning in the Blood
When high blood sugar is present in your bloodstream, it can have a couple detrimental effects on the cells that line the vessel walls.
First, it increases the number of free radicals in the bloodstream. These are volatile molecules that can rip through the walls and structures of healthy cells, killing them. You might think of them as tiny mines that way.
Second, it reduces the amount of nitric oxide in the blood, which helps blood vessels relax and allow more blood to run through them.
These elements can leave blood vessels inflamed and contribute to atherosclerosis, a hardening and narrowing of the arteries. This reduces overall circulation within the body, and it turns out that can be very bad for the feet.
Foot Problems from Poor Circulation
Your circulatory system is the highway through which nourishment is brought to the cells of your body. As long as the flow is steady and strong, your cells can thrive.
Your feet and lower legs could be considered out in the boondocks on this highway. The journey of your blood from the pickup point of your heart to the drop-off point of your feet is the longest in the body. The trip back can be even more challenging as your body fights gravity to make it back!
So when something starts to cause problems with your circulation, slowing blood flow, the feet are among the first to suffer ill effects.
The nerves within the feet are sensitive and vulnerable. Without proper support, they can begin to wither and die.
High blood sugar can already have a detrimental effect on nerves throughout the body, but the damage caused to those in the feet is complicated by the great challenge your circulation may have reaching nerve cells with the nourishment and tools they need to recover.
The gradual decline of nerves in the feet is known as neuropathy. Although symptoms can involve shooting, tingling, or burning pain at times, a more dangerous effect is the numbness it can cause.
When You Can’t Feel the Problem…
As nerves in your feet continue to fail and numbness increases, it becomes increasingly difficult to sense when something is wrong.
Normally, when you receive a small cut on your body, you likely feel it. You clean it, perhaps slap a bandage on it, and generally stay off the area as best you can until it heals.
If you don’t feel a cut on your foot, however, none of this happens. It isn’t cleaned, it isn’t bandaged. And even worse, you continue walking on it; placing pressure on the injury.
If your circulation is already poor, your feet are not going to heal as quickly as they used to. An injury might not heal at all without special attention. What starts as a small nick or cut can grow worse, widening and deepening, until it becomes an ulcer.
Problems may not even be confined to skin and soft tissues, either. The entire structure of the foot can begin to weaken and deform due to complications from diabetes and neuropathy. Joints can collapse, the entire foot structure shift, and sores form due to the imbalance of forces caused.
No matter the specific root causes of these situations, they can all be incredibly dangerous. Untreated wounds, the deeper they become, increase the risk of infection and gangrene. Unfortunately, this has caused the loss of a limb in too many situations. Others have led to a full loss of life.
Be Vigilant About Your Blood Sugar and Your Feet
The effects of high blood sugar on your feet can start out small, but grow out of control literally before you know it. The potential for disaster is scary, but it’s also largely preventable.
There are two very important core actions you can take to help prevent calamity:
- Manage your blood sugar levels. This one should go without saying. The better you manage your blood sugar and diabetes, the better you can slow the progress of the condition. In some cases, you can put a halt to things becoming worse entirely.
- Inspect your feet every day. Make concern for your foot health a daily task, no question. Check your feet every day for signs of abnormalities, including cuts, discolorations, and sores. If something raises a red flag or doesn’t show signs of improvement after a couple days, contact us about it. Addressing problems now keeps them from becoming much, much worse.
In addition to performing daily diabetic foot checks, it also helps to have a podiatrist in your corner to perform regular check-ups as needed. Not only can it help get the drop on potential problems, but it can help you find the best preventative measures to keep problems from developing at all.
If you have any questions about the effects of diabetes on your feet, please don’t hesitate to give our Spring Valley office a call at (845) 352-7507. You can also request an appointment via our online contact form and a member of our staff will reach out to you soon.