Guest Editorial: November is National Diabetes Month

By on November 15, 2012

by Julie West, West Physical Therapy
Did you know that here are 23.6 million children and adults living with diabetes in the U.S.? Of these, an estimated 17.9 million have been diagnosed, and 5.7 million are unaware they have the disease.

Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into the energy necessary for daily life. While the cause of diabetes is unknown, factors such as obesity and lack of exercise play important roles. Diabetes can result in conditions such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease, nervous system disease (neuropathy), amputations and problems with the skin, including ulcers and infections.

Managing your diabetes can lower your risk of resulting health issues. Management includes controlling your blood sugar (glucose), lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising. Physical therapists are experts in restoring and improving human motion, and can play an integral role in the management of diabetes by establishing and, as needed, supervising exercise programs and providing treatment of complications.

Diabetes that is not well controlled leads to problems in blood vessels and nerves, often in the legs. Low blood flow to the legs can create cramping pain when walking or lead to sores on the legs or feet.

Diabetes can affect the nerves, which can result in tingling in the feet and may progress to complete numbness. This numbness can cause damage to the skin or joints because of the lack of pain sensation. These problems can lead to difficulty with daily activities, limit the ability to exercise, and also result in very serious consequences to one’s health. It is best to take action to prevent complications, but if these problems occur, physical therapists can help restore your quality of life.
Physical therapists can:
• Use special tests to check the sensation in your feet
• Help decrease cramping pain during walking
• Evaluate and care for skin ulcers and sores that are slow to heal
• Improve your walking ability by adapting shoes or orthotics
• Show you how to protect your feet if they have lost sensation
• Recommend shoe wear or assistive devices if needed

A physical therapist can create an exercise program to help you achieve better health safety. You should see a physical therapist to help you with physical activity if you have:
• Pain in your joints or muscles
• Numbness or tingling in your feet
• Calluses or sores on your feet
• Pain or limping with walking
• Used an assistive device such as a cane or crutches
• Had a stroke
• Questions about what type of exercise is best for you

For more information, go to www.apta.org, or www.moveforwardpt.com.