Arthritis and diabetes are both systemic conditions that have adverse - and often uncomfortable or painful - effects on the body. While some damage cannot be reversed, it can be managed so you can remain as comfortable as possible on your feet.
While there are many arthritides, when we talk about arthritis in the feet or legs, there are three main types:
- Osteoarthritis - this is your standard wear and tear arthritis, that develops after using your joints for many years to the point that the articular cartilage wears down. Because articular cartilage coats the bone ends in joints so they move smoothly next to one another, this exposes the bones to being worn down through friction and overuse.
- Rheumatoid arthritis - this is an autoimmune disease that causes widespread inflammation throughout the joints in your body. The inflammation is often long-standing, and leads to painful degeneration within the joints.
- Gout - Gout is a direct result of excess uric acid within the blood. Increased uric acid levels can often be attributed to a diet high in purines, found in foods like seafood, red meats, red wine, beer and the like. At certain temperatures and pH levels (often in the foot), the uric acid forms crystals in the joints - often the big toe joint - which becomes extremely painful and swollen. This is known as a ‘flare up’ of gout.
Diabetes puts your feet at a significant risk of injury. This is because of the way it affects the blood vessels and the nerves, which lead to decreased sensation and blood flow to the feet.
When your ability to feel is reduced, you are at a higher risk of injuring your foot and not being able to detect the injury or wound - even if it is an open wound. With impaired blood flow and circulation to the feet, it is harder for the wound to heal and leaves you vulnerable to infection. If infection occurs, it is again more difficult for your body to clear the infection.
This is why it’s very important to have regular neurovascular assessments, so you are completely aware of what is happening with your sensation and circulation in your feet, understand the risks, and can take the appropriate precautions.