Autoimmune diseases are conditions in which your immune system attacks your own cells, rather than invading cells (like germs). There are over 100 autoimmune diseases. Some, like alopecia, don’t affect your feet, but there are several autoimmune diseases that do.
At Advanced Foot, Ankle, & Wound Specialists, our team of board-certified podiatrists excels at treating foot and ankle issues caused by autoimmune conditions. In this blog, we dive deeper into common autoimmune diseases, how they affect your feet, and how we treat them.
Autoimmune diseases that affect your feet and ankles
Multiple sclerosis, lupus, and psoriatic arthritis are examples of autoimmune diseases, but the two of the most common autoimmune diseases are rheumatoid arthritis and Type 1 diabetes.
In rheumatoid arthritis, your immune system mistakenly attacks your own joints. It first attacks smaller joints, such as your big toe, but can then move to bigger joints (your ankles). The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include fatigue, joint stiffness, swelling, and pain.
Type 1 diabetes
In Type 1 diabetes, your immune system attacks your pancreas. Because the pancreas is compromised, people diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes make little or no insulin. If you have Type 1 diabetes, you need to take insulin for the rest of your life.
High blood sugar levels can contribute to bodywide issues, including vision problems, fatigue, poor circulation, and problems with your heart. Diabetes can lead to neuropathy as well as foot ulcers.
Slow-healing wounds and ulcers often develop on the feet and ankles due to poor circulation. Untreated wounds can lead to infection, gangrene, and even amputations.
More than 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with lupus. This disease can cause fatigue, joint swelling, and a butterfly-shaped rash on your face. When it comes to your feet, you might experience pain in the balls of your feet, ulcers, and swelling.
Foot problems from autoimmune diseases
The effects of autoimmune diseases can result in several issues for your feet or legs. We work with you to relieve such common symptoms as:
- Slow-healing wounds from diabetes or lupus
- Toe joint pain and swelling
- Ankle pain and swelling
Medication for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis can also increase your risk of slow-healing wounds. If you’re on immunosuppressants, the risk of infection increases, which can make ulcers more dangerous.
Getting the right treatment
In general, autoimmune diseases can’t be cured, but treatments can restore the quality of your life and help you stay active and healthy. Work with your doctor, follow all prescribed treatment plans, and take any medications as instructed.
For example, if you have diabetes, take your insulin regularly to avoid complications such as diabetic ketoacidosis.
In addition to taking any prescribed medications, adopt healthy lifestyle changes, including:
- Practicing self-care
- Eating nutrient-dense foods
- Practicing good sleep hygiene
- Exercising regularly
Managing underlying autoimmune conditions reduces your risk of foot complications, but it doesn’t guarantee that you won’t have any foot problems. Should any foot or leg symptoms arise, don’t hesitate to seek podiatric care when needed.
We treat a variety of foot conditions and recommend the right treatment for you. Examples of treatments we offer include surgical and nonsurgical wound care, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and diabetic foot care services such as nail trimming and ongoing monitoring.
We can further bring relief to your feet through the use of orthotics, pain medication, splints, and physical therapy.
When should I see a podiatrist?
Don’t wait until a small problem snowballs into a big one. Neuropathy, numbness, slow-healing wounds, or tingling sensations can signal complications from an underlying autoimmune disease.
Are you ready to learn more? Request an appointment today at one of our offices in Tamarac, Coral Springs, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, or Hollywood, Florida.