Foot disease and diabetes

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: March 9th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases. It causes a host of complications, including problems with the eyes, kidneys and immune and nervous systems. One of the most serious is foot ulcerations, which affect nearly one in forty diabetic patients.

More than fifteen percent of these individuals… or about eighty-thousand Americans each year… ultimately undergo lower-leg amputation. That often spells the beginning of a rapid downward cycle from which the patient never recovers.

Skin ulcerations on the foot occur when the tissues of the feet become deprived of oxygen. Scientists believe this problem involves thickening of the walls of the smaller blood vessels as a result of certain chemical changes caused by the disease.

Now a new study finds that early changes in the oxygenation of the skin could foretell the development of ulcerations. That enables doctors to treat patients at an earlier stage, before the onset of serious complications.

Harvard-affiliated researchers reported this finding in a recent issue of The Lancet medical journal after studying more than one-hundred diabetic patients and control subjects.

The scientists found measurable reductions in the amount of available oxygen in the skin of patients with diabetes that can be detected before foot ulcers develop.

Foot problems are the most common reason for hospitalization among diabetes patients, but they’re also among the most preventable. Annual exams are a step in the right direction for patients prone to foot ulcers, so doctors can catch problems early.