One simple pleasure I enjoy is a good pedicure and I’m thankful that it’s actually beneficial for the health of my feet! As we get older foot care becomes more important, especially for those living with diabetes. Today I’d like to introduce you to podiatrist Dr. Ira Kraus of Advanced Foot Care Centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee. An active supporter of the American Diabetes Association and a member of the American Podiatric Medical Association board of trustees, Ira has some valuable insights on preventative foot care that may help keep your feet healthy for miles to come.
Ira has seen first-hand how diabetes can affect people. “My father’s father passed away at the age of 33 due to complications of kidney malfunction secondary to diabetes,” he said. “My father developed late onset diabetes. His sister and mother also had diabetes, so it is very prevalent on my father’s side of the family. Both my brother and I feel blessed we have not developed diabetes at this point in our lives, but we’re definitely affected by it.”
Like many physicians, Ira became a doctor because he wanted to help people. “When I was young, my parents would go to the doctor with my grandmother, and I felt as if the physicians were stiff and rigid,” he said. “They seemed to talk down to my parents, who were really bright people. I decided that I was going to be a doctor, and I was never going to be like that. When I interned at the New York College of Podiatry, I noticed that podiatry patients would walk in with pain and walk out feeling better. Of all the physician specialties that I visited, the podiatrists always seemed to be the happiest, so I decided it was a good specialty for me.”
When he started practicing podiatry, there was not a lot of focus on diabetic foot care. “I felt that diabetes wasn’t really being treated as well as it should be,” he said. “We started seeing that there was more of a need for diabetic foot care. I felt we would be able to help the patient by offering more specialized services. I have found that practicing diabetic foot care is very rewarding. The patients are very thankful because many of them suffer from different types of ailments and pains, and we’re able to help make them feel better.”
Early in his career, Ira became involved in the American Diabetes Association, assisting with a diabetes basketball camp in Chattanooga for several years with former NBA player Gerald Wilkins, a local University of Chattanooga graduate whose mother lived with diabetes. Ira also served as an at-large member of the local Association’s Board of Directors for about 10 years. He still participates in Association events, sponsoring a team in the Tour de Cure®.
Ira is passionate about providing his patients with resources to keep their feet healthy. “I’m very big on education,” he said. “To me, practicing preventative foot care is one of the most important things a person living with diabetes can do. Every patient living with diabetes who comes into my office is given educational material on proper diabetic foot care, diabetic neuropathy and how to try to prevent amputations. It’s important they understand what signs and symptoms to look for. For example, a person living with diabetes may develop thick skin on his or her heels, and if that area cracks open, it can become infected. So seeing a podiatrist on a regular basis and practicing preventative foot care becomes very important.”
As suggested by the American Diabetes Association, Ira advises people living with diabetes to have a foot screening once a year. “If someone starts developing problems, the frequency of those visits may change,” he said, “but it depends on the overall condition of the diabetes and the symptoms the individual may have.”
When people who live with diabetes visit Ira, they can expect a thorough exam. “I start by checking for evidence of neuropathy in the lower extremities, which is from the knee down to and including the foot,” he said. “I feel their pulse to verify there is uninterrupted blood flow through their arteries and veins. I have them do muscular range of motion tasks to make sure everything moves correctly. I look for any skin problems, such as cracks in the skin, infections, fungal nails or irregular moles. Then I do a series of neurological exams that tests the nervous system response and helps determine potential loss of sensation.”
Preventative foot care requires several steps. Ira recommends starting with a thorough visual exam of your feet, looking for skin changes, twice a day. If you can’t see the bottom of your feet, you can use a mirror, or have someone else examine your feet. Good hygiene is important too; Ira suggests that people living with diabetes should clean their feet regularly and keep their nails trimmed appropriately. He advises daily use of unscented skin lotion on your feet. Finally, Ira encourages some type of exercise, whether it’s walking or another form of activity. “The more activity you do, the more likely it will help with blood flow in your legs and feet,” he said.
Our feet carry us for many miles each day so it makes sense to keep them in good shape. I appreciate that Ira values and provides preventative education for his patients. For more foot health information, you can check out his clinic blog and Twitter account. My thanks to Ira for sharing his insights.
All the best,
Disclosures: Ira Kraus received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.
Tour de Cure is a registered trademark of the American Diabetes Association, Inc.