People with diabetes should know that taking care of their feet is crucial. The problems caused by losing sensation or circulation in the feet and legs — both well-known complications of the disease — can be severe. But it’s not just a matter of avoiding ulcers or amputations, medical experts say. It’s also a matter of dollars and cents.
The numbers involved are staggering. Here a few, and make sure to to pick your jaw off the floor after reading them.
Some 26 million people in the United States have diabetes, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s 8 percent of the country’s population. And more than half of those folks are at risk for some sort of foot problem.
The cost of treating all those people reached $245 billion in 2012, which was a leap of 41 percent from 2007, the American Diabetes Association says. And complications with diabetic feet make up a big chunk of that total.
“Most of the cost associated with diabetes is due to complications,” said Robert Gabbay, the chief medical officer at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. “But more than any other chronic disease, if patients make changes in their lifestyle, long-term complications can be prevented.”
So how much can you save by taking care of your feet? Try a cool $20,000 a year, according to Johns Hopkins podiatrist and diabetes expert Alex Kor. That means visiting your health care provider for regular foot checkups and possibly having a podiatrist trim your toenails if you can’t do so safely on your own.
There are many simple things you can do on your own, of course, and your doctor has probably told them to you time and time again. Make sure to check your feet daily for ulcers and any other changes. Never walk barefoot, and always wear socks with your shoes. And make sure, while you’re at it, to wear good-fitting shoes that give your toes room to breathe.
Few things are more important to diabetics of all types and all ages than staying healthy and complication-free. We work toward this goal because it’s important for our sense of well-being, and for our families. But it turns out that it’s prudent fiscal advice as well.