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The Foot Condition You Might Not Feel

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Brittany Portonova, DPM, was born and raised in the Hazleton area and attended King’s College before completing her residency in Philadelphia. She’s now back in the place she calls home, providing care at the Health & Wellness Center at Hazleton.

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The Health & Wellness Center at Hazleton is a premiere outpatient facility offering primary care, speciality care and other outpatient services to residents of Northeastern PA.

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You may know that diabetes is a condition related to blood sugar, but did you know it also can cause nerve and blood vessel damage? When this occurs, it can lead to something called neuropathy. More than half of all people with diabetes will experience some form of neuropathy in their lifetime.

It can cause many common symptoms to develop in your feet such as numbness, tingling, burning and extremely dry skin, which can lead to ulcers, infection and deformity. Also, ordinary things like fungal nails and calluses can become dangerous due to abnormal feeling sensation from neuropathy. It's why, if you have diabetes and you're heading to the beach, you need to be wary of going barefoot.

The risk for neuropathy is one reason why I stress preventative foot care for all people who have diabetes or pre-diabetes. Preventing foot problems is much easier than dealing with them after they’ve already occurred. Even if you aren’t experiencing any of the common symptoms I’ve mentioned, seeing your podiatrist for an annual foot exam is important.

In addition to annual visits, you can care for your feet at home. Try these five tips:

  1. Keep your shoes on. Mom probably always told you to take your shoes off in the house. If you experience signs of neuropathy, you should always wear shoes. Walking barefoot may leave you prone to stepping on a sharp or dangerous object without knowing it.
  2. Check your feet. Throughout the day, look for redness, swelling, blisters or cuts. Something as small as a tiny stone in your shoe can do a lot of damage if you can’t feel it there.
  3. Keep your feet smooth. Apply an over-the-counter (OTC) diabetic foot cream daily to keep you skin soft. When your feet are dry, you become predisposed to increased friction, sometimes leading to wounds. Do not apply the cream in between your toes; that could create a moist environment susceptible to bacterial infection.
  4. Don’t be a hero. Neuropathy can make some of your ordinary activities less safe than they once were. A common example is trimming your toenails. If you experience numbness, you may risk cutting yourself. Let your podiatrist do it instead. If you have diabetes, this level of routine foot care is often covered by insurance.
  5. Wear supportive footwear. Most insurance companies also will cover one pair of diabetic-approved shoes each year as long as you get an annual diabetic foot evaluation and doctor’s note. These types of approved footwear are specially designed to relieve areas of pressure that can lead to skin breakdown and ulcers. They also can limit the motion of certain joints, which helps to reduce inflammation and pain.

Learn more about services at the Health & Wellness Center at Hazleton.