How Diabetes Affects Your Feet and Diabetic Foot Care
Diabetes is a condition that is caused due to lack of insulin in the body to control blood sugar levels. Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas to regulate glucose levels in the blood.
Diabetes can be due to the pancreas not producing sufficient insulin to control blood sugar or in some cases it may not produce any insulin at all. This condition is referred to as Type 1 Diabetes.
When the pancreas produces sufficient insulin but the cells in the body do not respond to insulin, the sugar level in the blood rises and leads to a condition that is referred to as Type 2 Diabetes.
People with diabetes should take extra care of their feet. When sugar levels in the blood are not under control for a long period of time, it can affect the feet and cause further complications.
How does diabetes affect the feet?
Diabetes can affect feet in many ways. It can cause, blockage of arteries, diabetic neuropathy, weakening of the bones and Charcot's Foot.
Blockage of arteries
Diabetes can lead to thickening of the arteries. When arteries thicken the passage through which the blood flows becomes partially blocked. The blockage disrupts the proper flow of blood through the arteries.
When the arteries that supply blood to the feet are blocked, the feet do not get sufficient amount of blood supply to keep them healthy. In such a case, it takes a long time for the foot to heal when it is injured.
Germs can enter through cracks that develop on the skin due to dry skin or an injury leading to infection and inflammation of the foot. If left untreated this can lead to ulcers and foot sores.
Diabetic people can develop diabetic neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy is a condition in which there is a loss of feeling in the feet. This loss of feeling in the feet is due to the damage to the nerves that occur when sugar levels in the blood are not under control for over a period.
Due to this, a diabetic person cannot feel any pain when the foot is injured and may leave the injury untreated. When this happens the germs enter through the injured area and start infecting the foot.
When the injury is left untreated, the infection sets in through the injured area and spreads to the other parts of the feet.
Gangrene sets in when the infection is left untreated. Gangrene is a condition when the tissues die due to lack of proper blood supply. In such a case the feet may have to be amputated to prevent infection from spreading to other parts of the body.
People with diabetes must take proper care of their feet and check their feet regularly for minor cuts, cracks, and bruises.
Weakening of Bones
Diabetes can lead to bones becoming weak due to lack of proper blood circulation. When the bones become weak they become susceptible to fractures. A diabetic person is more prone to fractures than a person who is not affected by diabetes.
Charcot’s Foot is characterized by an initial redness, warmth and swelling of the foot. Charcot’s Foot is a can occur in diabetic patients due to significant nerve damage (neuropathy). The bones become weak and are prone to fractures and the joints may collapse causing the foot to take an abnormal shape.
How to buy shoes
When buying shoes, remember that the shoe must have a shock-absorbing sole which will help to relieve the pressure exerted on the bottom of the foot and the shoe should have a strong back to support your feet.
The shoe should be lightweight and must be made of a material that will allow your feet to breathe. The shoe should match the shape of your feet and be a proper fit. The shoe should not be too tight or too lose to avoid blisters, sores or calluses that can lead to further complications. If the shoes are worn out replace them as soon as possible.
Try on shoes with socks so that you know the shoe fits properly. Wear socks that do not constrict the foot and allows the blood to circulate freely. The socks should be made from a material that can absorb moisture and keep the feet dry.
Diabetic Foot Care
- trim nails regularly to prevent ingrown toenails and thickening of the nails
- treat cuts and bruises immediately to prevent infection
- keep your feet clean and dry
- do not walk barefoot
- use a mirror to check for cracks, blisters or cuts and treat immediately
- keep your feet hydrated, use foot creams that are specially made for diabetics
- wear comfortable footwear, the footwear should not be very tight
- wear cotton socks that will absorb any sweat from the feet and keep the feet dry
- wear footwear specially made for diabetics if you have a foot problem
- wear shoes with laces or Velcro or buckles that are adjustable
- wear shoes made of suede, leather or canvas
- do not wear shoes made of plastic
- do not wear shoes with pointed or open toes
- check your feet with a doctor every once a year
- do not treat ingrown toenails, calluses or corns by yourself, consult a podiatrist.
- do not use the antiseptic solution on your wound, this will irritate and further bruise the skin
- do not use a hot or cold pack on your feet as this will bruise the skin
The best way to prevent foot problems is to keep sugar levels under control by exercising regularly and by following a healthy diet.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Nithya Venkat