After our grandson’s Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis we had to learn “What is Diabetic Foot Care?” and why it is so important.
It has been known for some time that when Diabetics have high glucose (blood sugar) levels over a prolonged period of time it can lead to some serious complications, including foot problems.
Following the Diabetes Management Plan as directed by your doctor will help minimize the risk of developing any of these risks.
It is because of these risks that Diabetics should pay close attention to daily foot care and report any potential problems to your doctor immediately.
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Why is Foot Care Important for Diabetics
When a person has Diabetes they have a greater risk of developing nerve damage, circulation problems, and infections which can all lead to some pretty serious foot problems.
There are precautions one can take to help maintain healthy feet.
Following your Diabetes care plan as set forth by your doctor combined with a healthy lifestyle will help keep your feet healthy.
Your stay healthy plan should include:
- monitoring blood glucose daily
- regular exercise
- eating a well-balanced diet
- regular medical exams, which include foot checks, A1c, blood pressure, and cholesterol at every visit.
Diabetes can Seriously Affect your Feet & Legs
Diabetes puts you at a higher risk for calluses, corns, bunions, blisters, and ulcers. High blood glucose levels mean these minor injuries can become the gateway for potentially disabling infections. If left untreated they can lead to amputation.
There are two major problems that Diabetes can cause to affect your feet:
- Diabetic Neuropathy – uncontrolled Diabetes can cause nerve damage. If you have damaged nerves in your legs or feet you may not be able to feel hot, cold, or pain. This is called “diabetic neuropathy”. If you are unable to feel a cut or sore it can worsen and become infected. When the nerves to the muscles are damaged the foot may not work properly causing the foot to not align properly when walking creating too much pressure on a certain area of the foot causing sores or blisters.
- Peripheral Vascular Disease – Diabetes also affects blood flow. Without proper blood flow, it will take longer for sores or cuts to heal. Poor blood flow in the arms and legs is called “peripheral vascular disease”. If there is an infection that won’t heal because of poor blood flow there is a significant risk of developing ulcers or gangrene(the death of tissue due to a lack of blood flow).
Common Foot Problems
Anyone can get these foot problems but for the Diabetic they pose a risk of more serious consequences such as infection or even amputation.
- Athlete’s Foot – is a fungus that causes itching, redness, and cracking. If not treated germs can enter through the cracks and cause an infection. Some pills or creams can easily treat the fungus called athlete’s foot.
- Fungal Nail Infections – the nails may become discolored, thick, and brittle and may separate from the rest of the nail. In some cases, the nail may crumble. Unfortunately, wearing shoes creates a moist, dark, and warm environment that can help a fungus grow. A fungal infection can also be caused by an injury to the nail. Some medications can be applied to the nail but these are not always effective. An oral prescription as well as your doctor removing the damaged nail may be the most effective treatment.
- Calluses – a buildup of hard skin, usually on the bottom of the foot. These are caused by an uneven distribution of weight, poorly fitting shoes, or a skin problem. Your doctor will determine if yours are potentially causing problems. Proper care of a callus is to use a pumice stone after your bath or shower to gently remove built-up tissue. Use cushioned pads and insole in your shoes. Medications can soften calluses. DO NOT ever try to remove the callus by cutting it.
- Corns – are a buildup of hard skin near a bony area of a toe or between toes. Corns may be caused by pressure from ill-fitting shoes that rub against your toes or cause friction between your toes. Use a pumice stone after your bath to remove built-up tissue gently. DO NOT use over the counter remedies or try to cut them out.
- Bunions – form when the big toe bends towards the second toe. In many cases, the place where the big toe joins the foot becomes red and callused. It may stick out and become hard. They can form on one or both feet and may run in the family. Most often they are caused by wearing narrow-toed high-heeled shoes. These shoes put pressure on the big toe and push it toward the second toe. Felt or foam padding may help protect the bunion from becoming irritated. Doctors can sometimes use a device to separate big and second toes or in some cases, surgery is required.
- Diabetic ulcers – are a break in the skin or a deep sore on one or both feet. They can become infected and can develop from minor scrapes or cuts that heal slowly or from the friction of ill-fitting shoes. It is important to get treatment as soon as discovered. Follow your doctor’s advice for treatment. Up to 10% of diabetics will develop foot ulcers at some point.
- Ingrown toenails – occur when the edges of the nail grow into the skin. This causes pain and pressure along the nail edges. The edge of the nail may cause redness, swelling, pain, drainage, and infection. The most common cause is pressure from tight shoes. Other causes may include improperly trimmed nails, crowding of toes, and repeated trauma to feet from running, walking, aerobics. They can be prevented by keeping the toenails properly trimmed. In severe cases, surgery is required for treatment.
- Plantar warts – look like calluses on the ball of the foot or heel. They may appear to have tiny black spots or small pinholes in the center. They are usually painful and may grow singly or in clusters. They are caused by a virus that infects the outer layer of skin on the soles of the feet. Your doctor will diagnose and treat planters wart.
Diabetic Foot Care Tips
These common foot problems can be prevented by proper foot care. If you notice a potential problem get it treated without delay to avoid any permanent complications.
Follow these tips:
- Follow your diabetes care plan as set forth by your doctor. Try to maintain your blood glucose within the recommended target, eat a well-balanced diet, get regular exercise, and take all medications as prescribed.
- Wash your feet daily in warm water with a mild soap. Test water temperature with your elbow because nerve damage can affect your hands as well. Do not soak the feet, dry them well paying particular attention to between the toes.
- Check for sores, blisters, redness, calluses, or anything else that seems unusual, especially if you have poor blood flow.
- If your feet have dry skin keep them moist by applying lotion after you wash and thoroughly dry your feet. Do not put lotion between toes. Your doctor will recommend a suitable lotion.
- Use a pumice stone or emery board to gently smooth corns and calluses after your bath or shower when the skin is soft. Move the emery board in one direction only.
- Trim toenails straight across with a clipper once a week if needed. Do not round off corners or cut down the sides of nails. After clipping smooth with a file.
- Always wear closed-toed shoes or slippers that fit well and always wear socks or stockings. Do not wear sandals and do not walk barefoot, even around the house.
- Always check inside shoes to be sure there are no hidden objects that could puncture the foot.
- Protect feet from heat and cold. If your feet get cold at night then wear socks to bed.
- Put feet up when sitting, wiggle toes, and move ankles several times a day, and don’t cross your legs for long periods to help keep the blood moving.
- Stop smoking as that can make blood flow problems worse.
- Ensure your diabetes doctor checks your feet each visit and notify him/her if you notice any potential problems between visits.
I hope I have managed to shed some light on the question “What is Diabetic Foot Care? Having Diabetes can take some common foot problems and turn them into something severe.
It is for this reason that proper daily foot care is so important.
By incorporating daily foot care into your diabetes management plan many foot complications can be avoided or at least minimized.
Work closely with your doctor and follow all recommendations.
Small daily actions can go a long way to keeping you and your feet at optimal health.
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