5 Things Diabetics Need To Know About Foot Infections

About one million Canadians have nerve damage in their extremities because of diabetes. Nerve damage causes problems like pain, numbness, and tingling in the affected areas, and when this happens to your feet, you can injure your feet without realizing it. Even worse, these injuries can get infected. Foot infections are a major problem for diabetics; here's what you need to know about this serious complication.

How are you supposed to know your feet are injured?

When you have nerve damage in your feet, you can't feel cuts and scrapes, or even things that should normally be very painful, like ulcers. This is makes it harder for you to know when you're injured, but it's not impossible. Instead of relying on the sensations in your feet, you need to do a visual inspection to see these problems.

To perform the inspection, you need to check the entire foot from your toes to your heels, paying attention to the areas between your toes. Any injury, even something that seems harmless like a blister or a callus, can lead to an infection and needs to be treated by a podiatrist. Make sure to tell your podiatrist that you have diabetes so that they know to take minor foot injuries seriously.

What are the signs of an infection?

Infected wounds are usually painful, but if you have nerve damage due to diabetes, you won't' be able to feel the pain. During your regular foot inspections you should be looking for signs of infection, as well as injury.

Infected areas will be red and swollen, and may feel warm to the touch. You may also see red streaks extending from the swollen part of your foot, and pus may also be present. You may also have a fever. If you notice any of these signs, you need to see your podiatrist right away for treatment.

How are foot infections treated?

Foot infections are first treated with antibiotics, but that isn't always enough to control the infection. The infection may need to be surgically drained; your podiatrist will do this by making an incision in your foot to allow the pus to drain out. If draining isn't enough, more drastic treatments will be required. The infected tissue may need to be debrided (surgically removed). If you need a debridement, your podiatrist will surgically remove all of the infected tissue, while leaving all of your healthy tissues intact. 

What are the complications of untreated infections?

Untreated foot infections can spread from the original wound to the surrounding tissues. This can lead to a widespread infection in the soft tissues of your foot, but the infection can also spread to your bones or your blood, causing more serious problems. Bone infections are treated by surgically removing the affected bone, and if the infection is extensive, amputation may be necessary. Blood infections, also called sepsis or blood poisoning, can kill you, even if you receive treatment for them. 

Do lots of diabetics get foot infections?

Foot infections are the most common infection that diabetics get, not just in Canada but throughout the world. It affects people of all races and genders equally, but elderly diabetics are more likely to get foot infections. Since this complication is so widespread, all diabetics need to be aware of this complication, and need to be vigilant about protecting their feet and looking for foot injuries. 

Foot infections are a common and potentially serious problem that diabetics face, so you need to stay alert for foot injuries that can become infected. If you find any injuries, no matter how small, head to a podiatrist clinic right away.