Virginia Integrative Health
410 Pine Street Southeast
Vienna, VA 22180
Diabetes and Foot Ulcers The Intruder and the Hostage
Let’s set the scene: The intruder has entered the house and has the hostage held at gunpoint. A concerned neighbor knocks on the door. The intruder says, “get rid of him or you’re both dead.” The hostage opens the door a crack, gun to their head and says, “Everything is fine, I’ve got a lot going on, thanks for checking.” Neighbor leaves, and the hostage now suffers silently at the hands of the intruder.
If you’ve read this far to wonder, “Where is he going with this?” maybe you’ve guessed the intruder represents diabetes, unyielding and merciless, and the hostage is the foot – suffering in silence, and powerless. Now you’re probably thinking “What a drama hound.” But, the damage that diabetes inflicts upon all organs, including skin and underlying flesh, is more dramatic than any movie scene.
Sugar is not only highly addictive, but also extremely inflammatory. It’s highly irritating to all tissues, especially nerve tissue because it’s so delicate. Bathed in inflammatory sugar, nerve tissue breaks down and malfunctions. This is an insidious way to wreak havoc on tissues, because every single tissue, needs nerves to tell it what to do, and needs those nerves to send messages to the brain.
So, what happens when that messaging super-highway is broken down? That two-way communication between the tissue – whether it be heart, intestines, blood vessels, skin, etc – gets cut off. The brain can’t effectively tell the tissue how to work and adjust to conditions minute by minute. If there are issues such as a sore spot on your foot, or rock in your shoe, your brain doesn’t get the message even for simple concerns, and you can’t make an adjustment to relieve the insult. The skin suffers continual injury and breaks down, and an ulcer develops.
Healing that ulcer can be an incredible challenge, because the nerves that normally would have told your blood vessels to bring more oxygen and nutrients to damaged tissue don’t work, and the ulcer can’t get what’s needed to heal. An unattended ulcer can expand rapidly, become infected easily, and can lead to amputation or even death from a gangrenous wound in the worst cases.
Chronic wound care can include hyperbaric oxygen therapy, medical grade honey, low level laser therapy, biological dressings, and many other interventions. Yet, these treatments require resources of time, medical insurance and financial commitment. If you already suffer from Diabetes, some of your best strategies are to eat a high fiber, anti-inflammatory diet with healthy fats, lean proteins, and no processed foods. Manage your blood sugar levels aggressively, exercise regularly, and last but certainly not least, practice proper diabetic foot care. Don’t ever let that intruder get into the house.