Foot care is essential to everyone’s health and wellbeing but it is of particular importance to individuals managing diabetes. People who have this disease are at a higher risk of calluses, corns, bunions, blisters, and ulcers, and having high blood sugar means these minor injuries and alterations may become gateways to disabling infections or, in the most extreme cases, possibly lead to amputations.
The American Podiatric Medical Association defines diabetes as "the inability to manufacture or properly use insulin, and it impairs the body's ability to convert sugars, starches, and other foods into energy. The long-term effects of elevated blood sugar (hyperglycemia) can lead to serious damage to the feet, nerves, heart, eyes, and kidney."
In terms of foot care, diabetes can reduce the amount of blood flow to your feet. This delays the time it takes for sores to heal and if not treated properly, can lead to foot problems such as nontraumatic loss of a toe, foot, or leg.
Thankfully, diabetics can prevent many of these issues by following these 7 essential tips for maintaining healthy feet:
1. Control your ABCs.
The ABCs of diabetes are in short a reminder for you to watch over your blood sugar (A1C Test), blood pressure, and cholesterol. Setting up manageable goals for all three will help avoid the most serious complications attributed to diabetes while still allowing you to enjoy a full and active life.
2. Avoid going barefoot.
Wearing shoes with good support to protect your feet works wonders when you are diabetic. Even inside your house, walking around without shoes puts your feet at risk for scrapes, cuts, and penetration by splinters, dirt, debris, and whatever else is on your floors at home. If you suffer from neuropathy, weakness, numbness, and pain from nerve damage, usually in the hands and feet, you might not notice these damages until they become infected. Subsequently, it’s best to wear shoes at all times.
3. Stay on top of regular check-ups.
While we recommend our diabetic patients visit us at the very minimum twice a year, it is important to inspect your feet daily. Something as “harmless” as calluses or corns may become problems if you ignore them. We encourage our patients to stay on top of regularly scheduled appointments regardless of whether or not they have any foot or ankle issues. Additionally, consider consulting with our team before using over-the-counter medications from a pharmacy. These medications may cause more harm to your skin than prescribed medication would as they are not tailored to your specific case.
4. Wear the right footwear.
Never neglect the power of a good pair of shoes! Orthotic footwear, which contain prescription medical devices to correct biomechanical foot issues, does an excellent job of protecting your feet while keeping them comfortable. With insurance approval, you can receive shoes made especially for diabetics at any of our locations or at licensed dispensaries. Other orthopedic-friendly footwear options are available at The Right Shoe and other specialty retailers!
5. Keep the blood in your feet circulating.
Blood circulation is one of the most important functions in the body. Remember to keep your body moving and avoid staying in one position for a long period of time. Simple stretches such as wiggling your toes and moving your ankles up and down for 5 minutes can keep your blood circulating throughout your feet. Elevating your feet on a chair, couch, or footrest can also help with circulation. Diabetics should avoid smoking as it can cause poor blood circulation as the smoke encourages arteries to harden faster.
6. Keep your feet clean and moisturized.
As part of your daily foot inspection, be sure to keep your feet clean and moisturized. After washing them, don’t forget to thoroughly dry your feet. In addition to keeping your feet dry, ensure that your feet are properly moisturized by using a daily lotion or moisturizer that's appropriate for your skin type. This will help prevent skin cracking and possible infection. However, do not moisturize between your toes! If this area of your foot is too wet, skin breakdown occurs, which can increase the chances of you contracting various fungal infections including athlete’s foot.
7. Engage in low-impact exercise.
Exercise is essential for a healthier lifestyle. However, people with diabetes need to be cautious about the amount of pressure that is placed on their feet. Many fitness classes include jumping, bouncing, and hopping from position to position, which can be harmful, especially if you suffer from neuropathy. Instead, look for programs like swimming or walking, which are great, low-impact ways to stay in shape.
In conclusion, proper foot care is essential for everyone, especially diabetics. Our doctors are always available to help you properly manage this disease and prevent any major issues from arising so you can still maintain the lifestyle you’ve worked so hard for. Let’s navigate through potential problems together. Appointments in person at our office or via Telemedicine can be scheduled by calling us at (717) 757-3537.