Diabetes is a growing epidemic, and a diagnosis brings with it many challenges for the lower limbs. Slowed circulation and peripheral nerve damage can often emerge as complications of diabetes which greatly increase the risk of developing chronic wounds and injuries in the feet. If wounds get infected, it can even force an amputation to halt the spread.
While these complications are unfortunately very common, they are almost always preventable. That’s why diabetic foot exams are so critical. Dedicating yourself to detecting problems ahead of time, before they have a chance to become critical, will help you stay healthy, active, mobile, and independent.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of diabetic exams: the self-examinations that you should perform every day, and the professional diabetic foot checkups, which are usually conducted annually.
Make Diabetic Self-Examinations a Priority
One of the best things you can do for yourself if you have diabetes is to develop a daily diabetic foot care and self-exam routine. Start with a warm (not hot), soapy bath or shower, thoroughly cleaning and drying your feet, and sitting down in a well-lit room.
Visually inspect the entire foot, including the nails, between toes, and the sole. You may need a small mirror or a partner to help you if you find it difficult to see your entire foot clearly. Then, slowly and carefully feel the skin on the tops and bottoms of your feet with your hands.
Check for any signs of injury, damage, or discomfort—cuts, bruises, lumps, rashes, dry and cracked skin, redness, swelling, temperature changes, or other symptoms. Carefully note whether there is any tenderness surrounding the nails, and check your circulation by squeezing your toes and seeing how long it takes the color to return—3 seconds or less is the target.
It can be extremely helpful to keep a written journal logging your daily results, or even snap a few pictures with your phone. That way, it’s easier to tell if a problem is getting better, staying the same, or getting worse. If you do notice problems lingering, don’t take any risks—see our podiatric team for follow-up care.
Get a Comprehensive Foot Exam At Least Yearly
While daily inspections are of utmost importance, the home environment can’t provide the training and tools available at our office. An annual professional diabetes check-up is also an important part of screening for, and preventing, future wounds and complications.
Part of the appointment will consist of a physical examination, as well as a discussion between you and your physician about any symptoms you may be experiencing. We may check your shoes, observe the biomechanics of your feet and walking gait, evaluate range of motion, test your sensation and nerve responses, and perform other examinations.
We also offer more advanced testing equipment that can give us a clear read of your nerve health and circulatory function. These are very important, as poor circulation significantly increases wound healing time, while ailing nerves may prevent your feet from sending the proper warning signals to your brain. If our tests show reduction in these functions, we can get you on a treatment program immediately to halt or slow the rate of progression, which will help keep your feet much safer and healthier in the long run.
A Comprehensive Approach to Diabetic Foot Care
For comprehensive care for diabetic foot concerns, look no further than Martin Foot & Ankle. We stress a multi-disciplined approach to diabetic foot and wound care, and our podiatry and physical therapy teams work closely with vascular surgeons and other specialists to ensure the highest level of care, including preventative care. To set up your appointment at one of our five locations, please call 717-757-3537 today.