Researchers Zero In on Foot Problems in Diabetics

Study reveals changes in tissue and bone structure

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SUNDAY, Sept. 15, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- The changes that take place in the tissue and bone structure of the feet of people with diabetes have been identified by researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The findings are important because an understanding of these changes can improve prevention and treatment of foot ulcers, a common complication of diabetes and the leading cause of lower-extremity amputations in the United States.

The study appears in a recent issue of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.

The researchers evaluated the forefoot structure of 32 people, 16 with diabetes with previous foot ulcers and 16 control subjects. The researchers looked for differences between the feet of the two groups.

Computed tomography was used to display a three-dimensional image that allowed the researchers to identify and measure internal and external soft tissue, bone structure and joint disease.

Soft tissue change is a primary cause of diabetic ulcers. The researchers found that people with diabetes had much lower muscle density on the soles of their feet.

They found that overweight people in the control group also had less dense muscle tissue on their soles, but that relationship between body weight and sole muscle density wasn't found in the people with diabetes.

So, while obesity does cause changes in the forefoot, those changes aren't as great as those caused by diabetes, the study says.

Bone changes are another key element in diabetes-related food ulcers. Weight-bearing pressure on the foot is altered by changes in the joints caused by low muscle density in the soles. People with diabetes also had more joint disease than those in the control group.

More information

To learn more about diabetes and potential foot problems, visit Feet for Life.

SOURCE: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, news release, August 2002

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