Caring for Your Feet When You Have Diabetes
According to Diabetes Canada website, adults in Canada with diabetes have 20-fold greater likelihood of being hospitalized for nontraumatic lower limb amputation than adults without diabetes.
If you have high blood sugar, you need to put a specific regime in place for foot-care to avoid serious infections that may lead to amputation. To know how you can care for your feet when you have diabetes, let’s first understand how your condition may affect your feet.
Why Caring for Feet Is Important If You Have Diabetes?
Having high blood sugar can lead to diabetic neuropathy, a condition which makes your feet or hands numb. This happens due to high blood sugar levels causing damage to your nerves. If you can’t feel pain or sensations in your feet, you won’t be able to notice any wounds or irritations such as warts, blisters, corns and ulcers.
Neuropathy also causes dry skin as the disabled nerves in your feet won’t receive the brain’s message to sweat. Dry feet make it possible for the skin to crack and allows germs to enter the body. It is also possible that nerve damage causes the shape of your feet to change, which can cause ill-fitting shoes leading to bunions or calluses.
Diabetes also causes a reduced blood circulation to your feet which is why you are more prone to these infections and the healing process will also be much slower than in a non-diabetic person.
This is where the importance of footcare comes into place. If infections go untreated, they can lead to gangrene and later to amputation so it is vital to take a preventive approach, educate yourself about diabetic foot-care along with regular check ups.
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Here’s a Guide to Taking Care of Your Feet If You Have Diabetes:
- Become a foot inspector: Make sure that you check your feet for any cracks, wounds or sores, every day. Make it a practice to inspect all sides – tops, toes, bottoms, in between the toes, and heels for any cuts, blisters, corns or warts. You can even use a pocket mirror to get a better view of the bottom part.
If you see any signs of worry, make sure you take it up with a healthcare professional or a foot specialist. Remember, you might not feel pain or irritation so do not take something even as small as an ingrown nail casually. Get it examined and treated by a professional.
- Wash it up: Use a mild soap and warm water to wash your feet every day. Make sure you check the water temperature with your elbow rather than your foot since damaged nerves can cause burns and blisters and make way for infections. It is also recommended that people with diabetes should not soak since soaking can further dry the skin and increase risk of infection.
- Keep them dry: Make sure that you always dry your feet properly after washing them or after taking a shower. Avoid cases of sticky or wet socks and always pat your feet dry gently with a soft towel. Too much scrubbing or rubbing the skin can lead to cracked skin and increase chances of infection so don’t overdo it.
- Moisturize twice a day: To keep your feet from cracking due to dryness, apply a small amount of lotion to your heels and soles, once in the morning and before going to bed at night. Make sure to not use too much lotion as excess of moisture can also cause germs. Another thing to keep in mind is to never apply lotion between the toes.
- Choose the right shoes: Your feet are the largest at the end of a day so it’s the best time to try out a new pair. Go for orthotic footwear to keep your feet protected and comfortable. Your doctor might recommend these if a wound is not healing. Always wear socks and as a precaution, check your shoes for any pebble or sharp object before putting them on.
- Keep the blood flowing: Diabetes affects the blood flow to your feet so make sure that you put your feet up while sitting for long hours. Improve the blood flow by moving your ankles and wiggling your toes and check with a foot specialist to know what exercises work best for your condition before you include them in your exercise regime.
If you keep these simple care tips in mind, you won’t have to worry about serious complications. Apart from following a foot-care regime, also make sure that you keep your blood sugar levels under control.
After all, high blood sugar is the root cause of all diabetic foot problems and reducing it will also minimise damage to nerves and blood circulation. Smoking also reduces blood flow so make sure you avoid it at all costs for overall well-being and especially when you have diabetes.