Whether your diagnosis came yesterday or years ago, learning to live with diabetes can be an overwhelming prospect. Watching what you eat, getting proper exercise, keeping a daily log of blood glucose levels, scheduling doctor visits, and other items are added to your daily checklist. Another item that you should check every day is your feet, as seemingly small foot problems can quickly escalate.
How does diabetes affect my feet?
Diabetics are prone to nerve damage, a complication known as neuropathy. While it can be painful, it can also cause a loss of feeling in your extremities, such as your hands and feet, making it difficult to realize you may be suffering from other ailments. This is exacerbated by poor blood flow, and any change in your foot shape or even shoes can bring on new problems. A daily check of your feet can keep things in check and help stop problems before they start.
Dos and Don’ts for diabetic feet:
● Take care of yourself and your diabetes.
● Maintain your blood glucose levels.
● Check your feet every day for new sores, calluses, blisters, redness, cracked skin between the toes and any broken skin anywhere.
● Wash your feet every day.
● Dry your feet well, especially between the toes.
● Wear socks or stockings with soft elastic that fit your feet properly.
● Wear socks at night if your feet get cold.
● Wear closed toe shoes or slippers.
● Wear shoes that fit well.
● Put your feet up when sitting, and wiggle your toes throughout the day.
● See a podiatrist regularly, even if you don’t think you have foot problems.
● Have your physician check your feet during every visit.
● Soak your feet for any extended period.
● Round off the corners of your toenails or clip along the sides of your nails.
● Wear sandals.
● Go without footwear, inside or outside the home.
● Cross your legs for any extended period of time.
● Smoke, as it makes your blood flow problems worse.
Treatment and Prevention
Maintaining open communication with your healthcare team, whether it’s an internist, nutritionist, podiatrist or other professional, is key to living a healthy life when you have diabetes. Contact your doctor if you notice any changes in the skin on your feet, such as color, dryness, a new sore, corn, callus, or blemish. If your skin temperature is different, whether warmer or cooler, call your doctor, as well. Swelling in the ankles or feet, or pain in the lower legs, ingrown toenails or toenails infected with fungus, and any unusual or persistent odor should all be brought to your doctor’s immediate attention. Nail care, should be evaluated by your podiatrist or primary care giver as to your ability to trim your own nails safely.
Wearing proper footwear is also important to your foot health. Shoes with large toe boxes, proper support and made of a breathable material help you manage your diabetic feet. Diabetic socks and diabetic-friendly lotions and creams are also essential for taking care of diabetic feet.