Living with diabetes series
Why Footcare Plays A Crucial Role in Managing Diabetes
Here’s a handy checklist for your footcare
The focus of diabetes management is to stabilize blood sugar levels, take care of your diet, be active, take your medicines on time and keep your doctor’s appointments. You’re probably wondering where your feet come into the picture. But it is one of the essential aspects of diabetes management.
Most people with diabetes suffer some kind of nerve damage and this can happen in any part of the body. However, it is the feet and legs that get affected the most often. Nerve damage can cause a loss of feeling in your feet and also lower your ability to feel pain, heat, or cold.
Who is at risk for nerve damage?
Could You Have Nerve Damage?
Just about anyone who has diabetes can develop nerve damage. But the risk is higher for those with the following:
- Uncontrolled blood sugar
- Chronic diabetes where blood sugar is higher than target levels
- Being overweight
- Aged 40 years or higher
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
The lack of adequate blood flow causes a loss of feeling in the feet or hands, making them numb and painful. You cannot even feel the pain. Worse still, this can result in an infection with sores or injuries.
When there’s nerve damage along with poor blood flow, which is a major diabetes complication, it puts you at risk for developing foot ulcers. These can get infected and not heal well. If the infection does not get better with treatment, the foot, toe, or a part of the leg may need to be amputated to stop the infection from spreading to save your life.
By checking your feet daily, you can identify problems in time and get them treated quickly to avoid the risk of amputation.
The good news is — following the right diet and exercise along with your medication can relieve the symptoms. It is not tough to look after your feet. Begin by checking your feet every day for swelling, pain, nicks and cuts, any ingrown toenails or sores that have appeared recently. Keeping your blood sugar under control alone can help guard your feet.
During your doctor’s visits, you should get your feet and toes thoroughly examined for signs of cracks and numbness in the feet and ankles.
Can you prevent foot complications when you have diabetes?
Yes. You can take steps to avoid injury and keep your feet healthy!
Here are some do’s and don’ts of foot care for diabetics
- Do wash your feet daily with gentle soap and water. Pat your feet dry afterward and make sure the area between your toes is dry.
- Do not wash your feet in hot water as there is a risk of burns.
- Do keep your skin moisturized with petroleum jelly or moisturizing lotion, but do not use it between your toes. Before you wear your socks, dust some talcum powder so that your feet stay dry.
- Check with your doctor and ask if you can trim your own nails. Your toenails must be cut straight across to prevent ingrown toenails. File the corners of your toenails so they are not sharp.
- Be careful while trimming your nails. Use a nail trimmer and not a knife. Don’t be tempted to rip out a long nail.
- Always wear shoes when you go out. Never walk barefoot or in your socks. Footwear is mandatory.
- Get shoes that fit well with enough room. If you are buying new shoes, do it at the end of the day when feet are at their largest. Alternate between two pairs. Do not wear tight shoes.
- Preferably get shoes made of material that can breathe. Examples are such as leather, canvas, or suede with a cushioned sole to take the pressure. Go in for shoes that you can lace up for better support. Avoid sandals, high-heeled footwear, flip-flops (Hawai chappals), or shoes that don’t cover your feet fully.
- The moment your shoes start showing any signs of wear, replace them. This means uneven heels, torn inner linings, and any other signs of damage. Before you wear your shoes empty them of any particles that may have gotten inside. Don’t wear damaged shoes.
- If you see anything unusual on your feet, and this includes cracks, calluses, and corns, please see your doctor. Don’t self-medicate. Do not use non-prescription medication and treatments available over the counter.
- It goes without saying that you should always wear clean dry socks. Avoid stretchy materials like nylon and other synthetic textures. Cotton is best. Avoid socks with elastic bands at the top.
- If your feet tend to be cold, war socks to bed. Avoid using warmers, heating pads, and hot water bottles as there’s the risk of getting burnt.
- Make sure that you keep your feet and toes active. Wiggle them from time to time so there’s enough blood flow.
- Avoid standing or sitting in the same position for a long time. Do not sit cross-legged as this can prevent blood flow to the feet.
- As much as possible be active. A minimum of 30 minutes a day, but more is better. Check with your doc to find out what is best for you.
- Don’t smoke. It can affect the blood flow to your feet.
In short, make it a point to pamper your feet and keep them healthy.
Here’s a handy checklist for your footcare
When should you see your doctor?
Check for the following and if you see any of these, see your doctor right away.
- If you experience pain in your legs or cramping in your buttocks, thighs, or calves.
- If there is tingling, burning, or pain in your feet.
- If you have a loss of sense of touch or the ability to feel heat or cold.
- If you see a change in the shape of your feet over time.
- If you notice a loss of hair on your toes, feet, and lower legs.
- If your feet have dry, cracked skin.
- If you feel a change in the color and temperature of your feet.
- If your toenails are yellow and thicker.
- If you have a fungus infection such as athlete’s foot.
- If there is a blister, sore, ulcer, infected corn, or ingrown toenail.
Remember that you can prevent foot problems when you take care of your feet and keep your doctor’s appointments. This way you can avoid the minor problems from becoming major issues.
In a majority of people diagnosed with diabetes, the main problem is the lack of diabetes education. The Living with Type-2 Diabetes series will cover various aspects of the condition with tips and suggestions to manage it better.
In this series so far:
The ABCs of Diabetes
Blood Pressure and Living with Diabetes
Does Dessert Have a Place in the Diabetes Diet
The Cholesterol-Diabetes Connection
The Diabetes Diet and Living with Type 2 Diabetes
Let’s Bust 10 Diabetes Diet Myths!
Why is Exercise Important in Diabetes?
Disclaimer: The information in this post is purely for educational purposes only and does not substitute medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult your physician for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.
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