Recently I was a guest on Virginia This Morning on CBS 6, to discuss how diabetics can catch foot problems early — before they become major health threats.

It's estimated that 30 million Americans have diabetes, and nearly 90 million people are pre-diabetic. Diabetes is an inability to use the sugar in your system adequately, so you build up too much sugar in your system that gets into other structures such as your nerves and your arteries, causing damage.

How does diabetes affect the feet? The number one complication of diabetes that puts diabetics in hospitals is foot problems, and it's those foot problems that can lead to amputations in diabetics. 15 percent of diabetics will get an ulcer, and 15 percent of those ulcers result in an amputation. 50 percent of people who have a major amputation will die within a year, and within five years the mortality rate is 85 percent. That's a greater mortality rate than breast cancer and Hodgkins lymphoma combined.

But there's some good news. It's been shown that if you have a comprehensive diabetic foot exam once a year, it reduces by 85 percent the risk factors that can lead to amputation. Diabetics should also check their own feet every day, looking for early signs of ulcers, before they develop into ulcers or gangrene. If they see any red areas on their feet, they should call us immediately and we'll get them in for an exam that day — it's that important to catch diabetic foot problems early in order to prevent amputations.

Wearing the right shoes can also make a huge difference. For people who have loss of feeling in their feet, decreased circulation or foot deformities, it's been shown that a diabetic shoe will greatly decrease the risk of getting these pressure areas and gangrene. A lot of people would never wear diabetic shoes because they think they look like ugly, orthopedic shoes. So we hired a pedorthist (shoe specialist) and set her on a mission to find fashionable diabetic shoes. You'd never know these great-looking shoes are diabetic shoes, and as a result, we find now that most people who need to wear diabetic shoes are actually wearing them.

Diabetes doesn't have to ruin your life, if you do just a few things. Watch your diet, exercise a little, take your medications — and check your feet every day — if you see anything on your feet that doesn't look right, call your podiatrist right away.

If you're managing diabetes, please be sure to have a comprehensive diabetic foot exam once a year — it could save your feet and maybe even your life. Give us a call to schedule your exam at 804-320-FOOT (3668) or request an appointment online.

If you know someone who is diabetic, please share this video with them, and use the links below to help us spread the word via social media. Thank you!

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