Podiatric Medicine is a Front Line Defense in the Fight Against Diabetes

Podiatric Medicine is a Front Line Defense in the Fight Against Diabetes


Diabetes has become an epidemic, currently afflicting more than 16 million people in the United States. During the last decade more and more people have developed the disease. The American Diabetes Association estimates that every minute at least one person is diagnosed with the disease. Yet there are still those who dismiss it as a trivial affliction. They couldn't be further from the truth.

Diabetes is a systemic disease affecting many different parts of the body, including: feet, eyes, heart, kidneys, nerves, and blood vessels.

Diabetes is the leading cause of amputation, blindness, heart attack, and kidney failure, and kills one American every three minutes. It is known as the silent killer.

Diabetes is the fourth leading cause of death by disease in the United States and early symptoms of the disease occur more often in the feet than any other part of the body.

For those with diabetes, ordinary foot problems, such as ingrown toenails and calluses, can quickly escalate into serious complications. One of every four diabetic patients develops foot problems. Twenty per cent of all diabetic patients who enter U.S. hospitals are admitted for foot problems.

Absorbing 14.5 per cent of all US healthcare dollars; the costs of diabetes is staggering both in terms of human suffering from its complications, as well as monetarily. It is estimated that diabetes robs the U.S. economy of approximately $95 billion in direct medical costs and indirect costs such as lost wages, productivity, and premature mortality. The disease -- in California alone -- costs an astounding $2.85 billion.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates 1,456,000 Californians have diabetes, but half of this number is undiagnosed. Estimates by the American Diabetes Association are even higher for California: 2.2 million, with more than a million undiagnosed.

When diabetes is present, a cut, a scrape or blister can be fatal. The disease is the cause of death for 16,500 Californians annually and results in 5,800 yearly amputations of the lower extremities. Ideal case management of the diabetic patient requires a team approach. The podiatric physician, as an integral part of the treatment team, has documented success in the prevention of amputations.

The federal Centers for Disease Control estimates that up to 85 per cent of diabetic foot and leg amputations can be prevented with proper foot care. "Clinicians must promptly identify persons who are at increased risk, take measures both to treat and prevent the recurrence of foot ulcers," the CDC says.