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Setting the record straight on diabetes, leg hair loss

Dear Dr. Roach: In regard to a recent column on a 65-year-old losing hair on his legs, your answer hit on everything — except his DIABETES! When I developed Type 2 diabetes and started to see a podiatrist, he commented during the foot exam that the loss of hairs on one’s feet and lower part of the legs is very typical of someone with diabetes, because of nerve damage. You did not mention Type 2 diabetes at all! Was my podiatrist right? — Anon.

Answer: Diabetes can indeed cause nerve damage, and the most common places the symptoms begin are the bottom of the feet and ankles.

However, hair loss is not part of the nerve problem from diabetes.

People with longstanding diabetes, especially if not well-controlled, are at higher risk of developing blockages in the small and large blood vessels of the feet. Since this can start about the same time as diabetic neuropathy, the message from the podiatrist may have been confusing.

Yes, it could be the diabetes, but it’s the blood vessel damage, not the nerve damage, that seems to be most associated with hair loss.

Readers: The booklet on abnormal heart rhythms explains atrial fibrillation and the more common heart rhythm disturbances in greater detail. Readers can obtain a copy by writing:

Dr. Roach

Book No. 107

628 Virginia Drive

Orlando, FL 32803

Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6. Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to ToYourGood

Health@med.cornell.edu or request an order form of available health newsletters at 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. Health newsletters may be ordered from www.rbmamall.com.

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