Obese and Diabetic: A Foot's Worst Nightmare!

What is the one thing a person can do that will improve all of the health markers used in medicine? The answer is simple…lose excess weight.  In turn the opposite is true as well.  When we gain unneeded (and unwanted) pounds, our health markers tend to decline.  To be clear, a few pounds here and there may not have dramatic consequences but when a person reaches the point of obesity, health issues begin to abound.

Define Obesity

In order to define obesity, a common metric known as the Body Mass Index is used to compare across different populations, such as ethnic groups, nationalities, etc.  It considers two things, a persons weight and height.  According to the CDC, obesity is defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 30. 

New Obesity Data

A recent article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reported an obesity rate of 40.4% in women, and 35% in men.  In addition, severe obesity was reported as 9.9% in women and 5.5% in men.  While these statistics may be staggering, the startling reality is that obesity rates are increasing dramatically in women regardless of demographic and lifestyle factors. Obesity rates in men on the other hand have not increased significantly over the past decade.

Obesity and Diabetes

Obesity is rarely lonely.  In fact it has a myriad of debilitating “friends” or conditions that accompany it. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, heart disease, stroke, cancer, gout, sleep apnea, and bone fractures, to name a few.  One of the worst cronies of obesity, however, is type 2 diabetes. 

Diabetes type 2, is a condition which can develop after the body has been exposed to prolonged and chronic over-feeding, causing it to become insulin resistant.  This results in high blood sugar levels that can wreak havoc on multiple body systems, including the peripheral nervous system.  Once the nerves have been damaged, a person with diabetes my experience burning or tingling initially which can progress to a total loss of sensation in the legs and feet. Big deal right? Well in fact, this is the foundation for major medical problems.

With the loss of sensation in the feet, an individual can easily develop a wound on the bottom of their feet.  Unaware of this injury, the wound develops into an ulcer, which then becomes infected.  Once infected, it may spread to bone.  An infection in bone is termed osteomyelitis, and if not adequately treated, often results in an amputation.

Diabetic Foot Amputations

Some type 2 diabetics who undergo amputations may lose only a toe, however there are many diabetics who lose much more than that.  The American Diabetes Association reported that 60% of non-traumatic amputations are from those who have diabetes.  While this is astounding, what’s more incredible is the significant health impact amputations have on a person.  Aside from the obvious debilitating nature of an amputation, a study done in 2007 by Armstrong et al, demonstrated that the 5-year survival rate of a post-amputee was worse than prostate cancer, breast cancer, and Hodgkin’s disease. They also reported a five-year survival rate equal to that of colon cancer.

Conclusion

It is clear that obesity coupled with type 2 diabetes is not just a foot’s worst nightmare but also can be devastating to the entire body.  For more information feel free to browse some our previous blog posts relating to diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, and obesity. If you struggle with type 2 diabetes, it is imperative that you work with your primary care physician to get you blood sugar levels under control.  If you notice loss of sensation in your feet, or any sores or wounds, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with Dr. Gary N. Friedlander or Dr. Jay C. Larson at Sole Foot and Ankle Specialists in Glendale, Arizona. 

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