It is recommended people with diabetes see a podiatrist regularly as diabetes can cause a number of serious complications in the feet. The main diabetes related complications affecting the lower extremity include peripheral neuropathy (reduced feeling to the feet) and peripheral vascular disease (reduced blood flow/healing potential).
Over time, diabetes can cause damage to the small nerve endings in the feet leading to a loss of sensation known as peripheral neuropathy. This nerve damage can result in numbness, tingling or burning sensations in the feet as well as the inability to detect pain or injuries. In addition, diabetes can cause damage to the blood vessels suppling the lower limbs leading to reduced blood flow to the feet known as peripheral vascular disease. This reduced blood flow can result in leg cramps, pain in the feet (particularly when resting) as well as delayed healing of wounds and increased risk of infection.
The onset of peripheral neuropathy and/or peripheral vascular disease places people with diabetes at an increased risk of developing diabetic ulcers – sores and wounds on the legs and feet that take a long time to heal. These ulcers require regular podiatry treatment to remove any dead tissue from the ulcer and appropriately clean, dress and monitor the ulcer until it heals. Left untreated, diabetic ulcers can lead to severe complications such as gangrene and amputations.