Physical Therapy Clinic offers help for diabetics

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 6, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

To the diabetic community or even those with blood pressure problems; imagine spending a few days outside, protecting your feet with the sturdiest boots available on the market.

Eventually, the feeling in your feet starts to go away, but you don’t think too much of it. Maybe it’s from the weather. Perhaps the footwear is so effective that. In your mind, your lowest body parts are in a sort of Utopia. Either way, you don’t think too much about it.


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But one night, you pull off your socks, and see a stain of blood on them. Somehow, a hole has formed in the bottom of your foot, and bacteria are having a convention inside. Because of your formerly asymptomatic illness, you never knew there was a thing wrong.

You head to the doctor, but it’s already too late; the infection has altered your entire immune system, and the only option left is to amputate your foot.

It’s a situation that attacks at unthinkable speed. But it’s one that Dr. Greg Barone hopes to combat at the Physical Therapy Clinic on Commerce Boulevard. The clinic, which opened in May, specializes in diabetic wound care and neuropathy, the inability to feel one’s hands and feet, an all-to-common warning sign of diabetes.

&uot;I felt the niche for diabetic neuropathy wasn’t filled in Suffolk,&uot; says Barone, a board-certified wound specialist with a master’s degree in physical therapy from Old Dominion University. &uot;There are clinics in Virginia Beach and Norfolk, but not in Suffolk.&uot;

Of course, the clinic also treats non-diabetics with their wounds. &uot;A big part of the practice is a venous stasis ulcer, which tends to occur in the lower leg,&uot; Barone explains. &uot;It’s more common in diabetics, but not exclusive. Blood travels down to the lower legs and feet to oxygenate, but it doesn’t have the pressure in the veins to pass it back up the body, causing it to pool in the lower extremities.&uot;

Eventually, swelling sets in. The blood cells, unable to move around, die soon, releasing hemoglobin into the bloodstream, which stains the skin a brownish color. The skin itself then breaks down, removing the body’s protective barrier against infection.

&uot;The top layer of skin is called the epidermis,&uot; explains Barone. &uot;After it dies, it falls back into the second layer, the dermis. This causes lesions, which allows airborne bacteria to enter the wound.&uot;

Previously, a set of pills might be prescribed for patients. This might be an effective treatment, but Barone and the clinic have a new, even more efficient manner of battling the ailments, one that places far less responsibility on the sufferers: the FDA-approved Anodyne Infra-Red System, in which patients lie on a cot as the treatment is occurring.

Barone begins by covering the affected area with a wrapping equipped with 64 diodes (plastic, light-emitting bulbs). This absorbs energy into the body and increases circulation to and away from the site.

That part of the treatment takes about 45 minutes. Once it’s over, Barrone dresses the wound with a semi-silicon material known as silva, which contains ions of silver that become impregnated into the wound, killing bacteria. The doctor then wraps the leg from the foot to the knee, a dressing that’s to remain in place until the next appointment.

&uot;Compressing the veins helps propel the fluid back up through the body,&uot; he says. &uot;I see the patient three times a week, and the full treatment usually takes about a month. If they have a wound, I want to treat them before they end up with a hole.&uot;

The clinic, which can be reached at 923-3207, also provides diabetic shoes and inserts (diabetics typically have weight-bearing changes on their feet, which can result in too much weight being placed on one spot), and helps with physical therapy rehabilitation, such as strains and sprains.