Diabetes is more than just a footnote on a medical record; it’s a systemic condition that affects the body from head to toe. “Diabetics are more prone than the average population to experience problems with their feet,” says Robert Hutchison, DPM, FACFAS, an attending surgeon at Overlook Medical Center and at Overlook Wound Healing at the hospital’s satellite Union Campus.
Diabetes-related foot issues are often twofold. With diabetic neuropathy, damage to nerves in the legs, feet and toes means that patients may not feel heat, cold or pain in the lower extremities. It is not uncommon for a small cut or an ingrown toenail to go undetected because it cannot be felt. A simple injury that goes undetected becomes more complex by the body’s inability to heal properly.
For these reasons, Dr. Hutchison advises diabetic patients to do a visual inspection of their feet every day, seek regular foot care from a podiatrist, and wear shoes that reduce pressure points on the feet. “The best measure of all,” he adds, “is to keep blood sugar under control, and follow up with your doctor.”
Unfortunately, he says, “Most people don’t make the necessary lifestyle changes to get their diabetes under control. Often by the time a patient sees a doctor for a foot injury, the problem is already far gone – that’s what leads to amputation.”
Patients who turn to Overlook’s Carole and Joseph Katz MD Wound Healing Center, Overlook Wound Healing – Union Campus, and Overlook Hyperbaric Medicine have access to a multidisciplinary group of physicians (internists, infectious disease specialists, dermatologists, podiatrists, and vascular and plastic surgeons), nurses with specialized training in wound care and ostomy care, and every possible modality for healing chronic wounds. These include skin substitutes, skin grafts, special dressings and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
“At Overlook, we treat each patient based on his or her individual needs and treat them until they are done, for as long as it takes, whether that’s a couple of weeks or several months,” says Dr. Hutchison. “The sooner a patient seeks help, the better.”