If you live with diabetes, you know how vital good self-care is. To stay healthy, you need to keep on top of your blood sugar, be mindful of taking your insulin correctly if you use it, and stick with a healthy diet and exercise to keep your weight in check.
Your doctor has also likely talked to you about the importance of taking care of your feet, which are uniquely vulnerable to injury. One sore or ulcer can initiate a scary cascade of diabetes complications, so monitoring and checking your feet often is the rule of thumb.
The expert and caring team members at South Florida Foot & Ankle Centers partner with you to ensure that you understand how important it is to care for your feet if you have diabetes, and what constitutes proper care.
Why is proper foot care important for diabetics?
Having diabetes makes you more prone to foot issues because one of the complications of the condition is nerve damage and decreased blood flow in your feet. According to the American Diabetes Association, 1 in 5 diabetics who go to the hospital for care do so because of foot problems.
The diabetes-related problems that can lead to foot issues are blood sugar that isn’t managed well and foot neuropathy, which causes numbness, weakness, tingling, and pain.
This means that when your foot suffers a cut or you have cracks in your feet, you may not notice it, and the danger is that things can progress quickly: A cut can lead to an infection, and if left untreated, serious problems can develop.
An infection can result in gangrene, which occurs when tissue dies. When this happens, sometimes the only solution is amputation of the toe, foot, or part of the leg. Another worry is sepsis, a life-threatening condition resulting from infection entering the bloodstream. Unchecked, it leads to organ shutdown and death.
Finally, if a wound is left untreated because you’re unaware that you have it, infection can spread locally to your muscle and bone. This condition is called osteomyelitis, and people whose diabetes isn’t well-controlled are more likely to be challenged by it.
Proper foot care should be your top top priority — along with being under your doctor’s supervision — for lowering your risk for these conditions.
What is proper foot care if I’m diabetic?
We talk to our diabetic patients frequently about the importance of taking care of their feet and give them explicit instructions about what to do daily:
Develop an eagle eye
Checking your feet daily and visually inspecting them for cuts and sores is critical, since neuropathy prevents you from feeling them.
Cleanliness is key
Be scrupulous about keeping your feet clean. Wash and dry them thoroughly, and moisturize them to discourage cracks — just be sure to skip applying moisturizer in between your toes, since moisture there can linger and put you at risk for fungal infection.
Part of keeping your feet in tip-top shape is also being sure to remove your shoes and socks after exercising so sweat can be washed off.
Keep your feet and ankles moving
Just as movement for your entire body in the form of exercise is a pillar of responsible diabetes management, so too are foot and ankle movements that keep your blood flowing.
Don’t sit or stand in one position for lengthy periods, rotate your ankles regularly, and go up and down on your tiptoes or wiggle your toes, all of which support your circulation.
Be smart about footwear
Wear shoes that fit properly and don’t bind your feet, and consider getting some orthotics and diabetic socks, which help cushion your feet and keep them dry.
Lower your risk for foot injury
You can prevent foot injuries by avoiding going barefoot and trimming your toenails gently, straight across. If you cut your nails so the corners are curved, you increase the chances of developing an ingrown toenail.
Keep your eye on the big picture
Your overall wellness and healthy lifestyle habits greatly impact your diabetes management and your foot health. Eating well, exercising, and closely monitoring your blood sugar ultimately protect your feet.
Remember, you and your podiatrist are a team. Your feet stay healthy and your risk for complications plummets when you care for your feet the right way at home, and when you make the time to visit your podiatrist regularly.
Get a comprehensive diabetic foot exam by calling the South Florida Foot & Ankle Centers office that’s most convenient to you to schedule an appointment, or reach out to us online.