Good diabetes management is a head-to-toe commitment—literally!
While a lot of attention is paid toward what you put inside you when you live with diabetes, it’s very important to consider what’s going on externally, too. This rings especially true when it comes to the health of your feet!
The connection between diabetes management and your foot health is strong. But it isn’t just about managing blood sugar levels. Taking direct actions and responsibility for your foot care can go a long way toward preventing the seeds of some very dangerous situations from being sown.
What do we mean?
Diabetes Places Feet at Risk
The effects of diabetes can have negative consequences throughout the body, but the feet are in an especially vulnerable position.
A big reason for this deals with circulation. Our blood brings us the oxygen and nutrients our cells need to survive and repair damages. Normally, the heart already has somewhat of a challenge getting blood to the feet efficiently, simply because they are so far away. Gravity often doesn’t help the return trip, either!
A consequence of diabetes can be the gradual narrowing and damaging of blood vessels, reducing general circulation. This can have an effect throughout the body, but it tends to be felt first and most severely in the feet.
Reduced circulation can result in reduced efficiency in healing. Cuts and sores that develop on the feet may take longer to heal, or may not heal at all without medical intervention.
That in itself is bad, but combine it with neuropathy, or damage to the nerves in the feet and the potential for disaster increases exponentially.
As nerves lose their ability to sense your surroundings (also due in part to poor circulation), they also start to lose the ability to feel when something is bothering your feet. Cuts, blisters, and other injuries can not only occur more easily, but go unnoticed for some time. If they don’t heal quickly, continuing to walk on these injuries can make them worse, meaning a tiny cut can open and develop into a large ulcer.
Letting injuries worsen like this can not only degrade the structure of the foot, but pave the way for serious infections, as well. The need to amputate in order to save someone’s life becomes a very real possibility in such cases, and it happens to tens of thousands of Americans every year.
It does not have to happen to you—or to anyone, for that matter.
Easy Steps for Diabetic Foot Care
Engaging in healthy diabetic foot care habits is easy and goes a long way toward preventing problems from growing to dangerous levels.
Remember that the keys to diabetic foot care lie in prevention, before conditions become complicated. Addressing problems in their earliest stages—or, even better, keeping them from happening at all—is going to have a huge positive effect on the comfort and health of your feet in the future.
So, what can you do?
Perhaps the most beneficial habit you can develop is to examine your feet every day. Even if your feet feel perfectly healthy now, diabetes has a way of slowly creeping in and progressing. Developing the habit of checking yourself now means you will be doing it when it may matter most.
A diabetic foot self-exam is as simple as checking over your feet for injuries, discoloration, blisters—basically anything that’s out of the ordinary. Find a reasonable time to do this so it becomes part of your day. Try right before bed, for example, or when you’re getting into or out of the shower.
If you do find something of concern, let us know. Depending on your situation, we may ask you to keep an eye on things for a few days to see if there’s any improvement; or we might ask you to come in so we can take a direct look and start any treatment, if needed.
Another healthy habit is to use healthier footwear. We might recommend diabetic shoes in some cases, but you can still make beneficial general shoe choices. Shoes should be flexible, breathable, and allow plenty of room for your toes (especially if you have bunions or hammertoes. They should also be made of a soft fabric that doesn’t have rough seams that your feet can become irritated by rubbing against.
You should also make a habit of keeping your feet dry. Excess moisture on your feet can make a prime breeding ground for fungus such as athlete’s foot and fungal toenails. Both of these can cause more problems for a diabetic patient than they would for someone without the condition.
Make sure you fully dry your feet when you get out of the shower (perhaps while you’re examining your feet, eh?). Pay special attention between the toes, where moisture can become trapped. If your feet sweat profusely, wear shoes with good air flow whenever possible, and consider using an antiperspirant or bringing an extra pair of socks to swap into during the day.
Too much moisture is bad, but so is dryness and cracking. If your feet tend to dry out, keep them carefully moisturized. This means not just glopping it onto your feet and shoving them into socks, and not putting lotion between your toes, either.
As circulation will be a steady concern over time, it will pay now to invest efforts into being active and improving your circulation. We can help you develop a good, safe workout routine that doesn’t place your feet at risk. However, even when taking a break, you can help yourself by keeping your feet elevated and taking some time to move your toes and ankles around while sitting.
Let Us Help, Too!
Self care is a valuable tool to preventing the worst complications of diabetes, but it helps to have a professional in your corner as well. At Associates in Podiatry, we can work with you to develop the best overall diabetic foot care plan for you.
In addition, it’s a sound idea to have periodic professional foot exams. We are keyed in to detecting problems that others might overlook and help you address them early.
We have two offices to serve your foot and ankle needs. Contact us in Princeton by calling (609) 924-8333 or Roselle Park by calling (908) 687-5757.