2003-09-26 / Community

Eye On Physical Therapy

Eye On Physical Therapy

Timothy Rohrs, P.T. is a NYS Licensed Physical Therapist, Director of Sands Point Physical Therapy and is currently working towards a clinical doctorate degree at S.U.N.Y. Stony Brook.

Last month, I related the story of a patient I had seen a few years back that had diabetes and wrote about her subsequent amputation. Apparently that story hit home with a number of people. I want to thank those people that contacted me and expressed their appreciation for the story. For many, it was a wake up call to manage their illness better.

Diabetic foot complications are the number one cause of non-traumatic foot amputations in the United States, forcing one in five to enter the hospital. Patients with diabetes can experience decreased blood flow to the feet as well as nerve damage (neuropathy). Because of the decreased blood flow, the feet are less able to fight infection and the healing of wounds is greatly impaired. Because of the decreased sensation, it very easy to experience an insult, whether from ill fitting shoes or repeatedly stepping on a pebble lodged in the heel of the shoe. I have a patient currently who told me she had been sitting in a chair with one leg tucked under the other. After awhile she went to stand and had a hard time of it. She looked down to see a pool of blood on the floor. She had ripped the nail right off her toe and didn’t even feel it because of how numb her feet are. It took a full year for the nail to regrow.

To help protect your feet, perform the following a daily basis:

Maintain good blood sugar control. Keeping your blood sugar under control can help prevent foot complications.

Inspect your feet. Visually inspect your feet for sores, red spots, cuts swelling. Have family member help or use a mirror to inspect the bottom of your feet.

Wash and moisturize your feet. Moisturizing will help prevent the skin from drying and cracking which can lead to infection.

Smooth corns and calluses. Never use liquid corn and callus removers since they can create a chemical burn. You may want to visit your local podiatrist for help.

Trim nails regularly. Trim weekly and don’t’ rip off hangnails and don’t cut into the corners or trim into the quick.

Avoid going barefoot. Good fitting shoes made of leather or canvas which let our feet "breathe".

Avoid thermal injury. Never use hot water bottles or heating pads on your feet, which cause tissue injury or burns.

Exercise. Walking swimming and biking can enhance blood flow and won’t put pressure on the feet.

Schedule yearly visits with your doctor. If you at high risk or experience and infection, inflammation and ingrown toenail or foot ulcers see your doctor immediately.

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