Table of Contents
- What Is Diabetes and How Does It Affect Feet?
- More Footcare Tips For Diabetics
Did you know that 50% of all foot amputations that take place in the United States are due to diabetes? Good foot care is important for all of us, but it’s particularly crucial for people with diabetes.
Poorly managed diabetes can cause serious complications with feet, having a significant impact on patients’ quality of life. So it’s important for diabetes sufferers to have a good understanding of the signs of diabetic feet problems.
Read on to find out how diabetes can affect the feet, what to look for that might indicate medical intervention is needed, and what measures diabetics can take to promote good foot health and prevent serious complications.
What Is Diabetes and How Does It Affect Feet?
Diabetes affects the body’s production and tolerance of insulin. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas. It helps the cells of the body to absorb sugar from the blood, to use as energy.
If this system is faulty, sugar remains in the blood for too long and becomes problematic. Having high blood sugar levels for prolonged periods of time is the root cause of foot issues for diabetics.
Poorly controlled diabetes can cause nerve damage to the feet, also known as diabetic neuropathy. This leads to numbness, which makes it difficult to feel an injury or extremities of hot and cold in the feet.
If left untreated, small injuries such as cuts or blisters on diabetic feet can become infected. This can lead to serious problems, including gangrene leading to amputation.
Diabetes can also affect the blood flow through the body. This is known as peripheral vascular disease. Poor blood circulation means it’s harder for injuries to heal, leading to a risk of tissue dying and becoming gangrenous. But with proper care and treatment, this can be avoided.
What Are Signs of Diabetic Feet?
While the signs will vary for different people, there are a few symptoms that should not be ignored, as they indicate that diabetic feet problems are developing:
- Changes to the skin color of feet
- Lack of feeling in feet or numbness in toes
- Burning or tingling sensation
- Increased swelling in feet or legs
- Sores that are slow to heal
- Injuries or blisters on the feet which aren’t painful
There are some common foot problems that are much more serious for patients with diabetes, including athlete’s foot. This can cause itching, redness, and cracking of the skin. Infection can occur in these cracks, which is dangerous for diabetic patients and must be treated quickly.
Foot ulcers affect approximately ten percent of diabetics. Ulcers can occur as a result of a minor scrape becoming infected, or ill-fitting shoes rubbing over a long period of time. Diabetic patients may wish to learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of diabetic ulcers.
If an infection develops, patients may experience shock, redness, uncontrollable blood sugar, tremors or shaking, chills, and fever. It’s critical to seek emergency medical advice in this situation, as any treatment delays can lead to further serious health complications.
How Do You Treat Diabetic Feet?
Specialist treatment is necessary for diabetic feet problems, especially if ulcers have developed. The type of treatment doctors will recommend will depend on the severity of the condition.
Non-surgical treatment is likely in the first instance, including cleaning and dressing of any wounds and possibly using a boot cast or another type of immobilization device to keep the foot still. Close observation of any gangrene is critical.
Surgical treatment for severely infected diabetic feet might involve the removal of decaying or dead tissue (called debridement) or amputation of a toe, foot, or part of the whole leg in serious cases.
Preventative Care Tips for Diabetic Feet
While the risks of foot problems are serious for people with diabetes, amputations are mostly avoidable and good foot care can prevent serious problems. If you are diabetic, here are some preventative tips to keep diabetic feet in good health:
Maintain Good Control of Blood Glucose
If you follow your doctor’s advice regarding medication, nutrition and exercise, and do everything you can to keep your blood sugar within the recommended range, this will prevent the nerve damage which causes diabetic neuropathy.
Never Go Barefoot
Always wear closed-toed shoes or slippers. Don’t wear sandals or go barefoot, even inside the house. It’s important to protect your feet from any small injuries which could be slow to heal and become infected.
Inspect Feet Regularly
Check your feet daily for any small scrapes or cuts, any sign of blisters or infected toenails. All these things could cause an ulcer which could lead to infection.
Wash Feet Daily
A daily wash with warm water is a good idea. Ensure you dry your feet thoroughly, especially between the toes, and don’t leave your feet to soak, as this can cause dryness. Make sure you test the temperature of the water with your elbow first, as sensation in the hands can also be affected by nerve damage.
Take Daily Exercise and Stop Smoking
It’s really important to quit smoking if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, as smoking can further decrease blood flow to the extremities of the body, including the feet. Daily exercise will help to maintain healthy blood flow.
What Is the Best Shoe for Diabetic Feet?
Canvas or leather shoes are ideal, as they’re more breathable so can prevent fungal infections. Shoes should be well-fitting and broken in slowly, to avoid any rubbing or blisters.
Specialist diabetic shoes are a necessity if you have been diagnosed with diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Some are extra wide to give more space for the feet, which is especially important if you have any foot deformity.
More Footcare Tips For Diabetics
Now that you know more about diabetic feet, you should be able to spot the signs and symptoms and speak to your doctor before the condition becomes serious.
The most important preventative measure diabetic patients can take to avoid serious foot problems is to follow medical advice about controlling their diabetes. You should ask your medical team for a thorough foot check once a year, even if there are no symptoms.
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