(BPT) - Nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes, and while many of those individuals manage their condition through a combination of treatment options, each year thousands still face one of the most devastating side effects of the disease: amputation. About half of those with diabetes will experience peripheral neuropathy - a loss of feeling in the lower extremities - making amputation a very real risk. In fact, people with diabetes account for more than 60 percent of all non-traumatic lower limb amputations, according to the American Diabetes Association.
The good news is, with the right steps, it's possible to outsmart diabetes and protect your feet and lower limbs. The American Podiatric Medical Association points to these four important steps:
1. Be vigilant.
If you've been diagnosed with diabetes, it's important to constantly monitor your foot health. Inspect your feet and toes daily, and alert your podiatrist of any wounds that don't heal. Diabetes can cause a loss of sensation in the extremities, so a daily visual inspection can be the best way to spot problems before they become a health crisis.
2. Be proactive.
You've probably already made lifestyle and dietary changes as part of your diabetes treatment. You should be equally proactive about foot health. Clear your closet of uncomfortable, unsupportive shoes that can contribute to foot irritation or injury. Ill-fitting shoes can lead to diabetic foot ulcers, small wounds or cuts that are slow to heal. If left untreated, these ulcers can worsen and may even lead to amputation. Visit www.apma.org/diabetes to learn the best steps for finding diabetes-friendly footwear and guidance on how to care for your feet.
3. Don't go it alone.
Seeing your general practitioner regularly to help keep an eye on your diabetes is critical, however, it's also important to take a holistic approach to diabetes management. Podiatrists are specially trained to diagnose and treat ailments of the feet and lower limbs, including complications related to diabetes. Regular care from a podiatrist can help reduce amputation rates between 45 and 85 percent. Find a podiatrist in your area by visiting www.apma.org.
4. Get smart.
Medical technology is getting smarter every day-- so should you! From special socks equipped with fiber optic sensors, to thermal imaging devices, to sensors that can alert podiatrists via smartphone, today's podiatrist is using cutting-edge technology to help their patients outsmart diabetes. Talk to a podiatrist about what you may be able to incorporate into your diabetes treatment plan.
To learn more about foot health and diabetes, visit www.apma.org/diabetes.