The Importance of Diabetic Foot Care
For those living with diabetes, even everyday foot issues can lead to serious health complications.
Here is what you need to know.
Living with diabetes brings with it a long list of lifestyle choices that we try our best to make wisely, and a personal diabetic care plan that we do our best to follow. The great news is that for most of us with diabetes, new and easier insulin testing and delivery options, such as pen needles, glucose meters, and continuous glucose monitors make it a lot easier to effectively manage our blood sugar levels and keep it in the target range.
However, despite continued advancements in care, diabetes remains a serious condition that can lead to a number of heath complications. Among the most common and most complicated are diabetes-related foot problems.
When blood sugar levels remain elevated for prolonged periods, or dramatic fluctuations regularly occur, it can result in foot problems that, if left untreated, can grow into severe conditions with dramatic health consequences. Therefore, as someone living with diabetes, it is particularly important to care for your feet properly and be on the lookout for the signs and symptoms that you might have a diabetes-related foot condition.
Two Major Diabetic Related Conditions that Can Negatively Impact Your Feet
There are a lot of foot problems associated with diabetes (which we will elaborate on in a bit), but almost all of them stem from one of two conditions related to diabetes.
Diabetic Neuropathy is nerve damage directly associated with diabetes that occurs in the hands or feet. For those who manifest it in the feet, it can be quite painful, causing the feet to become sensitive to even the slightest touch. It can also cause the muscles in the feet to function improperly, resulting in prolonged pressure being placed on the wrong areas of the foot when you walk.
However, neuropathy can also have another, and perhaps, even more dangerous symptom. It can cause you to lose feeling and sensation in your feet. This can be extremely worrisome because when you no longer possess any sensitivity to cold, heat, or pain, it is a lot more difficult to be aware of cuts, scrapes, breaks or burns that might occur.
Imagine leaving a bad cut untreated to the point it becomes infected simply because you cannot feel it. Imagine, breaking a toe or a bone in the foot and never realizing it. Imagine getting a simple blister and walking all day on it after its broken open leaving you vulnerable to infection and other complications. Diabetic neuropathy is bad enough. However, the added danger it poses lies in the simplest and smallest cuts being left untreated.
Peripheral Vascular Disease
Diabetes can also impede blood flow to the extremities, including the feet. This is called Peripheral Vascular Disease. This poor circulation can cause your feet to feel unusually cold or create a sense of numbness. However, the lack of proper circulation also makes it difficult for your body to repair itself when a cut or sore occurs. It can take much longer for simple injuries to heal, which heightens the risk of infection. Additionally, poor blood flow dramatically increases the risk of developing ulcers on the bottoms of your feet, and can lead to gangrene, an extremely serious condition in which the tissue actually dies due to a lack of blood flow.
We will get into proper foot care habits for diabetes further in this post. However, one of the most important ways to avoid foot complications and other issues related to diabetes is to maintain proper blood glucose levels. You will find all the products and supplies you need at diabeticwarehouse.org. Shop for insulin syringes and pen needles by Clever Choice, Easy Comfort and BD Ultra Fine; diabetic test strips and glucose meters by FreeStyle, Accu-Chek and One Touch; and infusion sets by OmniPod and Medtronic. Orders are delivered to your home or office for maximum convenience and shipping is 100% FREE.
Everyday Foot Conditions to Keep an Eye Out For
For those with diabetes, foot problems that might not be severe for others can pose a real problem. Here are some conditions to look out for in order to avoid more critical diabetes-related foot concerns. Additionally, we have added a few tips on handling these conditions should you notice them. Note: as with any diabetes-related treatment it is important that you consult with your diabetes physician and care team before starting any new healthcare regimen.
Diabetes can cause the skin on and around the foot to become very dry, resulting in peeling and cracking. This is directly related to nerve damage, which impact’s the body’s ability to control the oil and moisture in your foot.
If you notice unusually dry skin on your feet, apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly or an unscented moisturizer after showering or bathing. Avoid soaking your feet as that can amplify dryness. Do not apply any lotion or oil between the toes as this can lead to infection.
Calluses tend to occur more often and build up faster in individuals with diabetes. If not properly cared for they can build up to the point they tear and become ulcers. This can lead to infection and gangrene if untreated.
To help avoid calluses, use a pumice stone to gently scrub the bottoms of your feet every day, preferably when wet. If you do notice a callus, DO NOT attempt to trim it yourself. See your doctor or healthcare professional. Never use chemical agents to remove calluses as this can further damage sensitive skin.
For those with diabetes, foot ulcers and wounds must be taken extremely seriously. Even though they may not hurt (likely due to diabetic neuropathy), if left untended they can lead to infection, gangrene, and in extreme cases, even the need to amputate the foot.
This is a no-brainer. If you are someone with diabetes and you notice a foot ulcer, see your doctor immediately. Stay off your feet as much as possible as walking can make the condition worse, forcing any infection you might have deeper into the foot. You doctor may need to clean out dead or infected tissue; prescribe antibiotics to combat infection; even take x-rays to ensure there has been no damage to the bone. This is not a wait-around-and-see situation. Get to your doctor or the hospital right away.
While certainly not enjoyable, ingrown toenails are no big deal for most people. However, for those living with diabetes they can lead to much larger problems. One reason is that diabetic neuropathy can make it hard to feel that there is any problem at all - until the toe becomes infected.
To avoid ingrown toenails, trim your nails regularly. Trim straight across and do not cut them too short. It’s also a good idea to avoid tight shoes, as the most common cause of ingrown toenails is undue pressure from poorly fitted shoes. While exercise is an important part of diabetes health, running, jogging and aerobics can lead to ingrown toenails in many people. If you’re sensitive, try to find a low-impact workout that doesn’t put as much pressure on the toes.
Blisters are a quite common foot condition. Even for most diabetics, they do not pose a major health concern - as long as proper care is taken.
To avoid blisters, make sure your shoes fit properly. Also, if you do get a blister do not pop it. The skin over the sore helps prevent infection. Applying an anti-bacterial cream and placing a small, protective bandage over the blister is usually adequate to avoid any complications.
Nail fungus is a common condition that can cause the toenail to become discolored, turn thick and brittle, possibly, even separate or crumble away from the toe. Again, the key here it to avoid infection.
If you notice nail fungus, there are over the counter medications that can be effective. However, they don’t work on every type of fungus. If you try a medication and it does not work, see your doctor who may need to prescribe a different topical or oral medication.
Ten Tips for Proper Diabetic Foot Care
As with many aspects of diabetes heath, the key to proper foot care is taking the necessary precautions to avoid problems before they can occur in the first place. Here are a few daily preventive measures you can take to avoid serious complications.
- First things first - always follow your doctor’s advice regarding diet, exercise, insulin dosage and other medication. The more balanced your blood sugar levels stay, the less likely you are to experience foot issues.
- Wash your feet in warm water daily using a mild soap. Be sure to dry thoroughly, especially between your toes.
- Examine your feet every day for sores, blisters, calluses, ingrown toenails, and other potential problems. Remember, if you are experiencing neuropathy, you very well may not feel any discomfort. That is why a good self-examination each day is a smart idea.
- Applying a mild moisturizing lotion after bathing can help avoid dryness and cracking. It’s a good idea to consult with your doctor as to which lotion is right for you.
- Keep your toenails trimmed and check them at least once a week. Clip straight across do not ‘round’ the corners. Smooth with a nail file after clipping to avoid any rough edges that might get snagged on socks or stockings and cause damage.
- Try to wear closed-toed shoes and avoid sandals or flip-flops. Wear socks or stockings that fit your feet and are not binding.
- Do not walk barefoot. It’s a no-no.
- Wear shoes that fit well. Style is no substitute for comfort if you’re someone living with diabetes. The wrong shoes can be a big problem.
- If you smoke, stop! Smoking only makes blood flow issues worse.
- To promote blood flow, wiggle your toes and ankles several times a day and do not cross your legs for extended periods.
One Foot in Front Of The Other
Living with diabetes is about always looking ahead and doing what you can to be healthier and happier. Hopefully, now you understand a little more about the importance of applying this mindset to your feet. As always, we remind you to consult with your diabetes physician and care team to determine the best course of action for your personal diabetes treatment plan.
In the meantime, you can find all the products and supplies your diabetic plan calls for from manufacturers such as FreeStyle, Accu-Chek, Clear Choice and Easy Comfort at Diabetic Warehouse.
Diabetic Warehouse is a trusted supplier of diabetes care products and accessories. For more information and to explore a complete range of products, including test strips, syringes and needles, glucose monitoring systems, and more, visit www.diabeticwarehouse.org.