Diabetes is a disease where the body cannot manufacture or properly use insulin. The body then is unable to convert sugars and starches into energy, leaving an elevated amount of blood sugar. Too much glucose in the bloodstream can damage the feet, heart, kidney, eyes and nerves.
Diabetes can be managed with medical care, exercise and the correct diet to avoid complications.
Neuropathy, or nerve damage, results from too much blood sugar. With neuropathy, feeling is reduced in the feet, so any damage such as a cut or scrape can worsen. Because diabetes also causes poor circulation, the healing blood cannot reach the wound, resulting in an infection and a non-healing wound.
Diabetes warning signs often appear in the feet and can include:
- Leg pain
- Skin color changes
- Slow-healing sores on the feet
- Fungal toenails
- Calluses or corns that bleed
Foot Care for Those with Diabetes
Here are good guidelines to help avoid serious foot problems:
- Check your feet daily. Look for anything unusual and inspect the bottom of your feet too. Call your foot doctor if you notice anything suspicious.
- Wash feet every day in warm, soapy water and dry thoroughly especially between the toes.
- Moisturize feet with a rich, emollient lotion or cream to keep skin supple.
- When trimming the toenails, cut them straight across to avoid an ingrown nail.
- Visit your podiatrist to treat corns or calluses – never cut them yourself.
- Change shoes and socks every day, and put on clean, dry socks when they become damp.
- Consider wearing socks made for those with diabetes. These have loose tops and extra cushioning, with fiber that wicks moisture away from the skin.
- If your feet are cold at night, wear socks. Avoid using a heating pad.
- Keep feet warm and dry in all types of weather.
- Avoid going barefoot to protect your feet.
- Keep your blood sugar levels in control.
Importantly, visit your podiatrist regularly for a complete foot exam.
A Podiatrist’s Role
A podiatrist plays an important role on a patient’s diabetes management team due to the frequency of diabetic foot-related complications. Good foot care and frequent visits to the podiatrist are keys in preventing amputations.
Early recognition of problems such as an ulcer, along with regular foot screenings by a podiatrist, can help reduce the risk of lower limb amputation by up to 85%.