If you have diabetes and your blood sugar levels are too high, it can damage your nerves or blood vessels. Nerve damage from diabetes can cause you to lose feeling in your feet. You may not feel a cut, a blister or a sore. Blood vessels damage means that the feet do not get enough blood and oxygen. Injuries to the foot can cause ulcers and infections and in severe cases, it may even lead to amputation. It is harder for your foot to heal if you do get a sore or infection.
Why does this complication occur in the first place?
In individuals suffering from diabetes, neuropathy which is peripheral nerve dysfunction can be combined with peripheral artery disease (PAD), leading to poor blood circulation in the extremities. Owing to which the individuals suffering from diabetes are unable to feel pain. This translates into injuries being undetected for prolonged periods, resulting in minor injuries and alterations becoming gateways to potentially disabling infections, which may necessitate lower limb amputation. One of the main causes of non-traumatic amputation in diabetics is due to foot infections.
Why is foot care important?
Foot care in diabetics is of paramount importance as it goes un-noticed leading to infections, and untreated infections can lead to gangrene, which in turn may require amputation.
Diabetes-induced neuropathy causes the skin to dry up, and dry feet crack making it easy for the germs to enter the body. Nerve damage can also lead to changes in the shape of the patients’ feet ( Charcot foot), which makes previously comfortable shoes hard to walk in. This causes friction leading to calluses and bunions exposing skin to germs.
Foot care should be the prime consideration for diabetics and is not difficult. Diabetics should regularly check their feet for any signs of damage. Look out for the below warning signals of foot damage:
- Color changes
- Hard skin
Having mentioned the warning signs, let’s now look at the daily foot care routine which should ideally be followed by diabetics.
- Check your feet every day
- Wash your feet every day
- Keep the skin soft and smooth
- Smooth corns and calluses gently
- If possible, trim your toenails regularly. If you cannot, ask a foot doctor (podiatrist) to trim them for you.
- Wear shoes and socks at all times
Following a good foot care regimen will go a long way in keeping your feet healthy. This should include periodic medical check-ups including foot check-ups and monitoring your ABCs (A1c, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels), monitoring sugar levels daily, exercising every day and eating a balanced diet.
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Always avoid taking the following risks:
- Diabetics should not use over-the-counter medications for treating warts or corns on the feet.
- Never walk around the garden or outside barefoot, wear perfect fitting shoes for indoors and outdoors.
- Regularly use heating pads or keep the feet in a bucket of warm water.
- Avoid smoking as it reduces the circulation of blood and healing process of wounds.
- Never cross the legs while sitting for long period of time.
If any of the above are noticed a doctor should be consulted immediately, as it can lead to serious health complications. Treatment of diabetic foot complications can be prolonged and challenging, hence prevention is better than cure. Stay healthy.