Your best foot forward:
Tips for diabetic foot care
Did you know that your feet are at risk if you have diabetes?
Having diabetes can lead to several other problems with your overall health. When your body is not making enough insulin, this can result in related concerns like eye problems, and even nerve problems. These could affect different parts of your body, including your feet.
But why the feet?
Diabetes can cause nerve damage when high blood sugar damages the blood vessels that supply nourishment to our nerves. This condition, - diabetic neuropathy 2 - can cause tingling and pain, as well as losing feeling in your feet. You may not be able to feel blisters or injuries from foreign objects when this happens.
Diabetes can also reduce blood flow in your legs and feet, making it hard for wounds and infections in those areas to heal. In worst-case scenarios, these infections may never heal.
This is why diabetics should take extra care of their feet. Diabetic foot care is one of the best ways to prevent foot complications caused by the disease.
How do I know if diabetes has affected my feet?
Your feet and legs seem to be the least of your concerns, but foot care should actually be a priority apart from regulating your blood sugar level. The effects of diabetes in your feet may not cause pain, but this can do more harm than good to you.
If you experience any of these symptoms1 ,consult with your doctor right away:
- Pain in the legs
- Cramping in the buttocks, thighs, calves ,especially during physical activity
- Tingling, burning, or pain in the feet
- Losing the ability to sense touch, hot or cold temperatures in feet or legs
- Discoloration, dry and cracked skin in feet
- Fungus infection (ex. athlete's foot) between the toes
- Blisters, sores, ulcers, ingrown toenail
Feet Complications caused by Diabetes
People with diabetes can develop foot problems, while the symptoms mentioned earlier seem ordinary, they could get worse and lead to serious complications like these:
Diabetic foot ulcers 3 are one of the most common complications brought about by unmanaged diabetes mellitus. This is usually caused by poor glycemic control, underlying nerve damages (also caused by diabetes), peripheral vascular disease, and even poor foot care.
Ulcers usually start at the ball of the foot, or on the bottom of the big toe, While some cases where foot ulcers won’t cause pain, consult with your doctors right away when you spot these. Failing to look after foot ulcers may result in amputation.
If you’re diagnosed with diabetes and you notice skin discolorations, swelling, blisters, even a foul-smelling discharge and numbness in your feet, these are symptoms of gangrene4. This complication stems from the lack of blood flow, or a serious bacterial infection, which in turn causes the death of body tissues.
If not immediately treated, bacteria can spread from your foot and legs to other tissues and organs. Immediately consult with a doctor to treat gangrene with proper medication or surgery.
Poor blood circulation in diabetes (or peripheral artery diabetes) can also affect your feet. With poor circulation, you can lose the ability to fight infection and heal bruises on your feet.
Unfortunately, people with diabetes are far more likely to have their feet or leg amputated. Because diabetes causes neuropathy, the inability to feel your feet), and peripheral artery diabetes, (reduces blood flow to the feet), these conditions make it easy for diabetic patients to get ulcers and infections in the legs or feet. If left untreated, it can even lead to the removal of the heavily infected foot or leg.
Diabetic Foot Care and Management
Taking care of your feet while regulating blood sugar levels is the best way to prevent foot complications brought about by diabetes. Here are some ways to take care of your feet if you have diabetes.
- Monitor your feet daily - if you have diabetic neuropathy, you’re likely not to feel bruises, wounds, or pain in your feet. Always check your legs and feet for any changes in color in your skin, nails, new bruises, or old ones that are not healing.
- Wash your feet - To prevent infection from cuts and wounds in your feet and legs, it’s important to wash your feet in warm water to kill germs and bacteria that may cause complications.
- Regularly trim your toenails - apart from washing your feet, it’s also important to cut your toenails on a regular basis. Long toenails can scratch and cut your toes and feet, and you may not feel it. While super short toenails could increase chances of getting ingrown nails. Both cases can cause infections which can be very difficult to address when you have diabetes.
- Wear comfortable shoes (and socks) - Before going out, ensure that your shoes fit your feet well, as this allows them to breathe. Small shoes tend to block blood flow, which could lead to complications. Meanwhile, socks will prevent your feet from getting blisters or sores. Don’t go barefoot anywhere to prevent unwanted wounds that could lead to infections.
- Help improve blood flow to your feet - To keep the blood flowing to your feet, you can put them up when you’re sitting down, or do small movements like wiggling your toes or moving your ankles. Strive to be physically active through exercises such as walking, dancing, yoga, and stretching.
- Have your feet checked every doctor’s visit - Whenever you have an appointment, ask your doctor to conduct a physical exam on your feet. They may find something that you haven’t detected during your home monitoring. With a thorough foot exam, your doctor can also check the feeling and pulses in your feet which can help them figure out where your diabetes level lies.
Keep your feet healthy and keep moving in life! Talk to your doctor about diabetic foot care that you could add to your daily health routine. With proper care and medication, you can prevent losing a leg or foot, and enjoy life even while living with diabetes.