National Diabetics Month Reminder: Take Care Of Your Feet

Dr. Steven Poling of The Park Medical Group Reminds Diabetics to Receive an Annual Foot Exam

October 29, 2009; Tenafly, NJ — As National Diabetes Month kicks off in November, Dr. Steven Poling, a Podiatric Physician and Foot Surgeon with The Park Medical Group, is reminding people with diabetes to make foot exams a part of their healthcare routine.

“It is very important for individuals who are diabetic – both young and old – to remember the health of their feet. Early diagnosis and treatment of foot problems related to diabetes, such as diabetic neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease, can mean the difference between losing, or keeping, your feet.”

Over 20 million Americans have diabetes, and, surprisingly, one in four does not realize they have the disease. Diabetes is a serious, life-long condition which affects the body’s ability to control glucose, or sugar, in the bloodstream. In some people with diabetes, the pancreas may produce too little or no insulin. In most adults, the body becomes resistant to insulin, the result is the same. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body metabolize sugar, if it is not working or insufficient, a person’s blood sugar level can rise or drop to potentially dangerous levels. This can be life-threatening if untreated.

There are many health complications associated with diabetes, and some adversely affect the feet. One is diabetic neuropathy. This nerve disorder attributed to uncontrolled blood sugar levels can cause a lack of sensation in the feet. This lack of feeling in the feet means that even a small cut or infected toenail may go untreated, since the person cannot feel it. If untreated, these infections can become serious, lead to gangrene and may result in limb amputation. More than 60% of non-traumatic lower limb amputations are caused by diabetic neuropathy.

Another complication of diabetes affecting the feet is peripheral vascular disease. Diabetes can do damage to the circulatory system and restrict blood flow to the legs and feet. Poor circulation can also prevent small cuts or sores from healing properly. This complication can also lead to diabetic foot ulcers and increase the risk for foot amputation.

Dr. Poling recommends individuals with diabetes receive an annual podiatric examination to identify any complications or high-risk conditions. An exam includes a foot assessment, vascular testing (non-invasive) and checking the skin of the legs and feet. Dr. Poling explains, “During an exam, we can detect any changes in the circulation leading to the feet and help manage the progression of any problems through medication, proper diet, managing blood sugar levels and creating a proper foot care program.” Dr. Poling also notes that very often diabetic footwear — special shoes with inserts to reduce pressure on the feet — can help diabetic neuropathy. These shoes are usually covered by Medicare.

In addition to diabetic foot care, Dr. Poling also specializes in foot and ankle arthritis and podo-pediatrics, focusing on children and young adults. He also treats plantar fasciitis and tendonitis. Dr. Poling is available by appointment at The Park Medical Group’s Northvale and Tenafly, NJ offices. He also makes house calls to the home-bound and elderly when necessary. To make an appointment, call (201) 768-9090. You can visit www.park-med.com for more information about Dr. Poling and The Park Medical Group.