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Diabetes Awareness Month 

More than 1 in 10 Texans is living with diabetes today making it one of the most common conditions in the state. Not only does diabetes increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, those diagnosed with diabetes are also at risk for other complications, such as peripheral neuropathy and non-healing wounds.

In honor of Diabetes Awareness Month in November, Damien M. Dauphinée​, DPM, medical director of limb preservation and wound care management at The Heart Hospital Baylor Denton, encourages those with diabetes to educate themselves on their condition, visit with their primary care physician for a diabetes foot checkup, and develop a relationship with a podiatrist who treats diabetic foot problems.​

Advanced Treatment for Diabetic Foot Ulcers

More than 50 percent of those living with diabetes develop disorders affecting their ability to heal wounds. Any person with diabetes who has a wound or ulcer that does not close by 50 percent within four weeks should visit a wound care center for treatment.

One treatment option for non-healing wounds is cellular tissue products (CTPs), which are skin substitutes made from donated placenta tissue or skin grown in a laboratory. CTPs come in three different forms, including dehydrated amniotic tissue, cryo​​-preserved skin and now doctors have access to fresh amniotic tissue. Another option is hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which helps enhance the healing process by increasing the oxygen level of the tissue, stimulating blood vessel growth and strengthening the immune system.

When other efforts to heal difficult wounds have been exhausted, some patients with severe wounds may benefit from a small amputation of the toe or forefoot to preserve the rest of their limb. These patients do quite well, remaining active and considering the procedure a victory because it saves the rest of the foot.

Ultimately, the goal is to catch diabetic ulcers and wounds before they become too severe. By visiting a wound care center, patients have access to a team experienced in advanced limb preservation techniques to manage and heal their wounds.

Managing Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy, a condition where nerves are damaged causing a loss of sensation in areas of the body like the legs and feet, is common in patients with diabetes. When patients end up losing sensation in their feet, it puts them at risk for developing wounds they can't feel.

For those with nerve compression and entrapment syndromes, nerve decompression surgery may help improve the sensation in the foot and reduce symptoms of numbness or pain. Nerve decompression is routinely performed on the hands in those with carpal tunnel syndrome, and it works similarly in the feet.

During the procedure, a podiatrist on the medical staff clears the area around the nerve releasing the pressure causing nerve issues. By restoring some feeling in the feet, nerve decompression surgery helps reduce the risk of a person with diabetes developing a wound that goes unnoticed.

It's important for those with neuropathy to know they have treatment options and procedures are available to prevent limb loss​.​​​

Importance of Diabetic Foot Exams

One of the main reasons patients with diabetes end up in the hospital is issues with their lower extremities — their legs and feet. That's why it is important for every person with diabetes to have a routine diabetic foot exam with a podiatric physician. In addition, it is recommended that every visit with a primary care physician involve kicking off those shoes and socks and allowing their doctor to examine their feet.

The average patient should be seen at least yearly by a podiatrist. For those with a history of neuropathy, checkups should be even more often — every 3-4 months.

Many diabetes patients who are covered under Medicare quality for the diabetic shoe program​. For those who have neuropathy or a foot deformity, a podiatrist may prescribe special therapeutic shoes or inserts, which are covered by the program every year to protect the skin on the feet. These shoes or inserts help prevent wounds and other diabetic foot complications that could lead to limb loss.

In addition to routine exams and therapeutic shoes or inserts, there are several ways those with diabetes can keep their feet in check. Review these 12 diabetes foot care tips​ to help you care for your feet on a daily basis.

​prevalence of Diabetes in Texas

According to Texas Department of State Health Services statistics, the percentage of adults with diabetes in Texas is above the national average, and it has continued to increase over the past several years.

Those with a diabetes diagnosis show increased rates of other associated conditions. In Texas, residents with diabetes are almost four times as likely to have cardiovascular disease and more than twice as likely to have high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

In addition to diagnosed diabetes cases, an estimated 8 percent of adults in the state have prediabete​s​​​​​, and even more may be undiagnosed. To assess your risk of diabetes, download our free diabetes risk assessment now and discuss your results with your doctor.

Thank you for following along during Diabetes Awareness Month. Together we can raise awareness about diabetes risk factors and encourage routine management.

The Comprehensive Wound & Vascular Center, an outpatient service of The Heart Hospital Baylor Denton, offers complete care for chronic wounds associated with diabetes and other non-healing wounds. Learn more about diabetic foot and wound care at the center.