Foot Complications and Diabetes
Have you checked out your feet today? Your feet go through a lot on a daily basis. As a person with diabetes, you need to pay extra attention to them! Even the smallest of problems could get worse and lead to more serious complications in the future.
Neuropathy, or nerve damage, is the most common foot problem for those with diabetes. Neuropathy can cause tingling, pain (burning or stinging), or weakness in the foot. It can cause loss of feeling in the feet, which can lessen your ability to feel pain, heat, cold, or injury. You could be walking around with a serious injury or an infected blister and not be aware! Nerve damage also can cause poor blood flow or changes in the shape of your feet or toes.
Take a look at the skin of your foot. Diabetes can cause the skin of your foot to become very dry, which causes peeling and cracking. This happens because the nerves that control the oil and moisture in your foot no longer work.
Stock up on supplies! After bathing, dry your feet and rub any oil or cream products that work to relieve dryness. Keep the oils and creams away from in between your toes to avoid infection. Avoid soaking your feet is another problem that can dry your skin.
Think of all of the jumping, walking and moving that your feet go through on a daily basis! All of the movement that you are going through can cause calluses to form on the high-pressure areas of your feet. Calluses occur more often and build up faster on the feet of those with diabetes. Calluses can get very thick, break down, and turn into open sores if not trimmed. Let the professionals cut your calluses. Do not try to cut calluses by yourself, or you might cause an ulcer or infection.
Invest in a pumice stone and use it daily on your feet to keep the calluses under control. Bring the pumice stone into the bath or shower and end your bathing routine with lotion.
Uh oh, ulcers! Ulcers occur most often on the ball of the foot or on the bottom of the big toe. They can also form on the sides of the foot from poorly fitting shoes. Although some ulcers do not cause any pain, make sure that every ulcer is examined by your health care provider right away. If you avoid treatment, ulcers could result in serious infections.
Your doctor will let you know the best treatment for your ulcer, so listen to their instructions to make sure that your ulcer doesn’t get out of hand. Keeping off your feet is very important when you have an ulcer to avoid any further damage.
The key to avoiding any further complications with ulcers is managing your blood sugar levels! Keep your levels in their optimal range. High blood glucose levels make it hard for your body to fight infection.
Poor circulation (blood flow) can make your foot less able to fight infection and to heal. Diabetes causes blood vessels of the foot and leg to narrow and harden.
You CAN control some of the things that cause poor blood flow:
- Don’t smoke! Smoking makes arteries harden faster. It affects small blood vessels, causes decreased blood flow to the feet, and makes wounds heal slowly. It also increases your chances of developing intermittent claudication (pain resulting from lack of blood supply and happens during exercising).
- Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control.
- If your feet are cold, the best way to help them is to wear warm socks, just make sure the band is not too tight. Hot water and heating pads could cause burning if your feet cannot feel the pain.
- Exercise! Exercise stimulates blood flow in the legs and feet. Grab a good-fitting, comfortable pair of shoes and get moving.
If you ignore the above risks for foot problems in people with diabetes, amputation could be your last resort. People with diabetes are far more likely to have a foot or leg amputated than other people.
Many people with diabetes have peripheral arterial disease, which reduces blood flow to the feet. Another common factor is nerve disease, which reduces sensation. Both of these problems make it easy for infections to occur and may lead to amputation.
The great news is that most amputations are preventable with regular care and proper footwear.
You only get one pair of feet. They are a very important part of your body, so take extra great care of them! Be aware of any changes in your feet and make sure that you see your health care provider if you have any questions or concerns.
Learn how to give a foot exam on your own and what you should be looking for.