Diabetes can strike just about any part of the body you can think of from head to toe. Speaking of the toes, high blood sugar can cause a number of foot troubles, making it essential for sufferers to give their feet some much needed TLC. This post will serve as a guide to help diabetes patients take the best possible care of their feet.
1. Inspect Your Feet for Cracks, Wounds and Sores Regularly
Nerve damage, a.k.a diabetic neuropathy, can dull any sensation in your feet. The danger here is that you might not feel it when you have a cut, bruise, or sore. And this is dangerous because diabetic sores heal very slowly and are prone to getting infection. So the best thing you can do to protect yourself against these effects is to regularly inspect your feet for new wounds and the condition of existing ones. Also look for changes in skin color, as well as dry or cracked skin. If they weren’t there before, this could indicate the start of foot problems triggered by diabetes.
2. Wear Diabetic Footwear and Socks to Protect Your Feet
Proper fitting shoes and socks are a must for diabetics. Too much pressure, not enough space and abrasive materials can cut the foot, which for diabetics, is problematic because wounds for a diabetic are more likely to get infected. So proper diabetic footwear and socks are essential. That means shoes need deeper toe boxes to give your feet space and make room to insert custom orthotics in them. Also, diabetic footwear typically comes without seams since they can rub the foot and potentially break the skin. Fortunately, finding diabetic footwear is relatively simple - it just takes guidance from a podiatrist or family doctor even.
3. Wear Diabetic Orthotics to Keep Pressure Off Of Your Feet
Apart from diabetic footwear, you should invest in some good diabetic orthotics. They provide an extra layer of protection and comfort in addition to diabetic shoes. They work by redistributing pressure placed on the foot so that they’re less likely to sustain cuts and injuries that could become infected. Diabetic orthotics usually come in the form of insoles - the best ones being customized to the patient’s unique footprint. Custom orthotics are moulded to protect the foot against the injuries a person is more likely to get unlike store-bought inserts. Best of all, many of these orthotics are covered by medicare plans.
4. Avoid Walking Barefoot Whether You’re Outside or Inside
You might be tempted to walk around on the lawn barefoot on a warm summer day, but that’s not a good idea for diabetics. If you have diabetic neuropathy, you may have a loss of sensation in your feet. That means you could walk on a sharp object, get cut and not even realize it. That could lead to a wound or sore that gets infected without you realizing it. So the best thing is to walk around in diabetic footwear and socks. You should practice this even at home. Pieces of glass or loose nails could linger on a tiled or wooden surface and puncture your foot without you noticing. At home, you should wear slippers or loafers and diabetic socks for protection.
5. Practice Skincare Wisely to Keep Your Feet Healthy
Diabetics’ should practice good skincare for their feet just like non-diabetics do. Of course, they need to approach it a little differently. That means trimming toenails and filing sharp edges - that will prevent ingrown toenails which can lead to cuts and wounds. Trim nails cautiously, however - cutting them too short can lead to cuts as well. Moisturizing the skin is also important but balance is key. Apply lotion to your heels and soles since these areas are prone to cracks in diabetics. But wipe off excess lotion and avoid putting lotion in between your toes because this can produce too much moisture which can put you at risk for an infection.
6. Quit Smoking if You Currently Do
Poor circulation is a common problem in diabetics. That’s why it’s essential to quit smoking if you have diabetes, because cigarette chemicals constrict blood vessels, making poor circulation even worse. That means the feet will receive less nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood, putting your feet at a greater risk for infections. Yes, quitting smoking is challenging, but for the sake of your health, trying to stop is worth all the effort. The best way to quit smoking with a plan and assistance. This could mean identifying your triggers (ie. stress) and avoiding them or relying on nicotine patches to reduce cravings.
7. Maintain a Healthy Anti-Diabetic Lifestyle
This tip is probably the most obvious one on the list. Keeping your blood sugar under control by means of your habits is the foundation to avoiding diabetic foot problems (as well as other complications).
Don’t forget the basics.
Regularly test your blood sugar levels and take medications prescribed by your doctor. Also, make sure to eat a balanced diet that incorporates blood-sugar regulating foods and get plenty of exercise. By taking care of the fundamentals, you can keep your blood sugar balanced and avoid the more serious complications from diabetes from head to toe.
8. Clean & Treat Wounds Immediately and Thoroughly
Sometimes, the inevitable will happen and you’ll get a cut or wound. Don’t panic. The key for wound care in diabetes is early recognition and prompt treatment. When you spot a cut or open wound for the first time, clean it out with mild soap and water, and cover the wound with a dry dressing that’s formulated for sensitive skin. More importantly, monitor the wound carefully and regularly. If it’s slow to heal and becomes discoloured or painful, visit your doctor to have it examined for a possible infection. The earlier you catch one, the easier and faster it will run its course.
9. Avoid Dipping Your Foot in Hot Water
When diabetic neuropathy robs your feet of sensation, you’ll have a hard time sensing temperature extremes. So dipping your feet in a very hot bath tub (or taking a very hot shower) can be dangerous for a diabetic foot. The high temperatures can burn and blister the feet, both of which can easily become infected. That’s why it’s important to bathe or shower in relatively warm water at most, not scalding hot water. Since your feet may not feel the temperature, you’ll have to use other body parts to gauge it. A simple way to do this is by feeling the temperature with your hands or elbows before stepping in the tub.
10. Avoid Crossing Your Legs or Sitting for Too Long
Since diabetics tend to have poor circulation in their feet, it’s important that you do everything in your power to encourage healthy blood flow to the foot. That means avoiding certain habits such as sitting with your legs crossed for very long periods of time - a habit that reduces circulation. Encouraging healthy blood flow also means moving your feet the right way. That includes wiggling your toes and moving your ankles around for a few minutes daily to improve blood flow. This will help counteract poor circulation that often accompanies diabetes, and keep your feet more resilient against infections and nerve damage.
Visit a Podiatrist if You Have Any Unusual Changes in Foot Health
Staying on top of diabetic foot health may seem a little daunting at first. But like all habits, once you get into the swing of things, it’ll become a part of your routine and it will be second nature to do them.
Lean on the support of family members, friends and medical professionals such as your doctor or podiatrist for support. They can help you physically with some of these tasks so they seem less like chores, and provide emotional support as well.
All of those efforts will pay off when your feet stay healthy, resilient and free of complications.
Not sure what diabetic orthotics and footwear you need to protect your feet? Get in touch with us so we can help you choose the best diabetic shoes and insoles for your needs.