Best Tips to Treat Swollen Feet from Diabetes
Many people living with diabetes experience a condition known as edema – a buildup of fluids in the tissue which causes localized swelling in the area of the body that is impacted. For diabetics, this usually happens in the feet and ankles.
What causes edema among people with diabetes?
Diabetes itself is not the root cause of inflammation in the feet and legs. The problem occurs when diabetes is not managed properly, and blood sugar becomes elevated for prolonged periods. When sugar (or glucose) is allowed to accumulate in the blood, it can damage the lining of smaller blood vessels in certain parts of the body, including the lower extremities. These damaged vessels make it impossible for the body to circulate blood properly. This poor circulation can cause fluid to get trapped in the legs, ankles, and feet, resulting in uncomfortable inflammation known as edema.
Numb feet – another danger of poor circulation.
Edema can do more than cause the feet and ankles to swell. If the swelling is allowed to persist, it can eventually lead to nerve damage resulting in a sensation of numbness or tingling. The real danger here is that when your feet suffer from numbness, it’s difficult to identify cuts, bruises, scrapes and even sprains, which under normal circumstances would elicit a significant pain response. This is particularly a problem for those with diabetes as the disease tends to slow the healing process in general, which is why it’s so important for diabetics to treat injuries sooner than later.
Early wound detection and treatment is the best way to speed healing and minimize the risk of infection and other complications. That being said, it’s difficult to treat an injury when you’re unaware one exists because you just can’t feel it.
If you have diabetes, make it a point to examine your feet on a daily basis (even if you don’t feel any numbness or tingling). Feet are injury-prone areas of the body, and there’s no point in taking chances.
Swollen feet often accompany other diabetes-related conditions
It’s important to note that edema often occurs in individuals who have other conditions and complications directly related to diabetes. These include obesity, heart problems, kidney disease, and hypertension. These factors can exacerbate problems with circulation and compound issues with fluid buildup and swelling. Often, getting these other conditions under control can have a dramatic impact on controlling inflammation in the lower extremities.
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10 Tips to Treat Swollen Feet from Diabetes
If you’re someone living with diabetes and you suffer from swollen feet, there are some steps you can take to minimize, and, in some cases, even reverse the problem. Here are 10 things worth trying.
- Gain better control over your blood sugar
As with just about everything related to your diabetes, establishing clear and positive control over you blood glucose level is the best thing you can do to prevent and minimize the likelihood of edema. Elevated blood sugar is the primary culprit of the condition, so keeping your levels in the doctor-recommended target range is the key to avoiding prolonged problems. Test your blood sugar according to schedule using a glucose meter and test strips, or a doctor-prescribed continuous glucose monitoring solution (CGM). Be sure to take all medication as prescribed by your diabetes physician, including the proper dosage of insulin. Gaining better control of your diabetes and blood sugar is the best way to reduce the risk of edema - not to mention virtually every other diabetes related complication.
- Compression socks
These snug fitting stockings deliver a slight pressure to the feet in order to enhance circulation and, hopefully, reduce swelling and numbness. They come in varying degrees of compression and it’s probably a good idea to talk with your doctor before deciding on the size and fit that’s right for you. The good news is you can find compression socks at all kinds of stores and online shops. They’re easy to use, affordable, and definitely worth a try.
- Elevate your feet after sitting
Many of us sit in front of a computer throughout the day and this is definitely not benefitting our circulation. When we’re sedentary it impedes blood flow and can worsen any swelling issues we might be facing. If you do sit a lot during the day, make it a point to get up and walk around at least once every hour. After work, take some time to elevate your feet. Lie back on a couch and use pillows to raise your feet. Kick back in a recliner or use an ottoman to elevate your feet. The higher you can get them to heart level, the better. Bonus Tip - when you do sit, try not to sit with your legs crossed as this further impedes circulation.
- Eat less salt
As someone living with diabetes, you should be keeping an eye on your sodium intake already. Beyond the heart and health concerns, salt causes the body to retain fluids and that’s not good for those worried about edema. Luckily, there are a lot of other spices and salt-free seasonings on the market, so cutting back on salt doesn’t mean cutting back on flavor.
- Lose weight
This tip comes down to basic physics. The more you weigh, the more pressure you’re putting on your feet and ankles. This added stress can contribute to swelling and discomfort. Even losing a minimal amount of weight can play a part in reducing the severity of edema. Additionally, shedding a few pounds tends to make it a lot easier to keep blood sugar in check - one more reason to do it.
- Be more active
Exercise is one of the keys to effective diabetes management. It helps lower blood sugar levels naturally and aids in the prevention of cardiovascular complications. Physical activity also happens to be great for circulation. Get the blood pumping and you’ve got a much better chance at avoiding fluid buildup and the swelling associated with diabetes-related edema.
- Invest in great shoes
No, we don’t mean absurdly expensive or designer shoes. In fact, women with diabetes should avoid wearing those overpriced heels as much as possible. We’re talking about comfortable, stable, supportive footwear that have adequate arch support for your comfort. Consider getting a size up if you’re currently experiencing occasional swelling. Better yet, talk to your doctor or pediatrist about what shoes might work best for you. There are plenty of options out there, including a number of diabetic specialty brands.
- Soak your feet in Epsom salt
Epsom salt helps reduce inflammation. You can pick it up at any pharmacy, then, simply follow the directions, adding the appropriate amount to warm water. Usually, a good 20-minute soak will go a long way to relieving soreness and bringing down some of that uncomfortable swelling.
- Foot massage
A nice relaxing leg and foot massage relieves pressure, heightens blood flow, reduces soreness, and can even help reduce swelling. Long but gentle strokes tend to work the most magic. For the best results, it’s probably a good idea to see a licensed massage therapist, tell them about your condition, and ask them to focus on your feet. However, your friend or partner can also do a great job and they usually don’t require a tip.
- Drink enough water
While edema is caused by fluid buildup in the lower extremities, increasing your fluid intake can actually be useful. Drinking enough water (8-10 glasses a day), assists the body in expelling fluids more efficiently through urination, which can aid in the prevention of swelling. However, before increasing your water intake, talk with your diabetes physician. There may be other factors to consider.
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