The diabetes crisis has gained momentum in recent years, owing partly to an increase in obesity numbers. When poorly managed, diabetes can pave the way for life-altering events like amputation. One man’s cautionary tale, detailed in a medical report earlier this year, highlights the dangers of mismanaging the condition.
A diabetic foot ulcer is defined as an open wound or sore on the skin that takes longer than usual to heal.
It is more likely to occur in this population due to numbness in the feet, which makes patients oblivious to cuts that may injure them.
A case report published in the medical journal Cureus earlier this year detailed the case of patients who could have avoided amputation with timely medical care.
The researchers noted: “The notable aspects of this case are the late presentation of a patient with uncontrolled diabetes who could have avoided this compilation if went to seek help earlier […].”
The amputation followed an infection on the left second toe, reportedly caused by a cut on the foot from a sharp wooden object.
The patient did not initially feel the cut, until his toe start swelling up to his ankle, causing a bad smell and pain in the ankle.
This wound progression occurred over the course of weeks before the patient presented to his private practitioner.
The authors reported: “His non-healing ulcer [….] is traumatic in nature, and he tried to self-manage the wound for four weeks before seeking medical care because he was afraid of going to the hospital.
“However, his wound recovery was not progressing and his condition was deteriorating, causing him to seek medical help.”
Diabetic foot ulcers are more common in male diabetic patients than they are in females, noted the report authors.
They cause a wide range of symptoms depending on the stage of the disease but are generally characterised by prolonged healing.
An inactive lifestyle and gaining excess weight are two major contributors to the development of diabetes and should be avoided at all costs.
In fact, the disease often co-exists with other markers like hypertension, obesity, and peripheral artery disease, which should be carefully managed too.
Early treatment, of course, is favourable to preventing nerve damage from getting worse, so paying attention to the signs is vital.
The early signs include:
- Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
- Feeling like you’re wearing a tight glove or sock
- Numbness or reduced ability to feel pain or temperature changes.
These signs mean the nervous system has become increasingly compromised and is unable to carry messages from the brain to the nerves in the feet.
It can be avoided primarily by managing blood sugar, as glucose is the primary culprit behind nerve damage.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the progress of neuropathy can be slowed by keeping blood sugar “as close to your target range as possibly”.
Everything a person eats will affect their blood sugar, so emphasis should be put on eating healthier carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, and pulses.
Small bouts of regular exercise can help control blood sugar levels for periods of up to 48 hours.
Both measures combined are essential for maintaining a healthy weight, which could significantly lower the risk of diabetes too.