Chances are you or someone you know had diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, Nearly 30 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes and another 86 million are at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.
There is not just one kind of diabetes
There are many different types of diabetes. While each type is different, they are the same in that there is a lack of insulin or usable insulin production in the body. Type 1 was known as Juvenile Diabetes. It is a type of diabetes that generally strikes children. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. For people with Type 1 diabetes, their immune system attacks the portion of the pancreas that produces insulin and after that attack; they can no longer produce insulin. People with Type 2 diabetes either stop producing insulin or their body becomes insulin resistant. Insulin resistance means that even though it is there, the body is not using the insulin it produces. Type 1.5 diabetes starts in adults, gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy and goes away with birth, and there are rarer kinds that are usually the side effect of treatments for other diseases.
What happens when someone has diabetes?
Our bodies use glucose as energy. Glucose is produced in the body during the digestion of carbohydrates. (Glucose and insulin are like that couple that you knew in high school that were never apart. They were together so much that it was hard to recognize one without the other.)
In a person without diabetes, the glucose is joined by insulin and is carried to the cells to provide energy. If the cells don’t need all the glucose and insulin, they are then stored either as glycogen (long term energy) or as fat.
In a person with uncontrolled diabetes, the glucose cannot be used for energy because it’s not matched with insulin. Cells will not accept glucose without insulin. (Like in the example, it is like the boyfriend went away for the weekend and the girlfriend is kicked out of a party because no one recognized her.) The unaccompanied glucose then flows through the blood stream and eventually is excreted in urine. The problem is that while the glucose travels through the blood stream it damages the passageways. That damage is particularly bad in small blood vessels. The glucose thickens the blood vessels and less blood can get through. The glucose also damages the walls of the blood vessels. (So, the girlfriend gets kicked out of the party and drives home crying. On her way, she keeps hitting cars and damaging her car until she can’t drive it because there is too much damage.)
What does this have to do with my feet?
Your feet have lots of small blood vessels. If these small blood vessels are damaged by the glucose, you will have reduced blood flow to your feet. This reduced blood flow means that there is a reduced flow of oxygen to the feet. This reduction of oxygen means that it is harder for the feet to heal if there is a sore. The reduction also affects the nerves. When the nerves have reduced oxygen, it causes nerve damage.
It is because of the potential for serious damage to the feet and the nerves in the feet that people with diabetes should have regular foot checks with the podiatrist. We at Evanston Podiatric Surgeons and Mag Mile Foot and Ankle Institute, see many patients who have diabetes. We feel a strong responsibility to understand the difficulties that our diabetic patients face in controlling their disease and we try to help in any way that we can.