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Diabetes and Foot Care: Love Your Feet
Taking Care of Your Feet With Diabetes
One of the things about diabetes that many people don’t realize is that it can affect many different aspects of health and wellbeing.
For instance, foot care becomes vitally important once a diagnosis of diabetes has been reached to avoid potentially serious consequences, including amputation of toes, feet or entire lower limbs.
You can view this news with horror and trepidation, or you can follow my lead and use it as an excuse for some foot pampering and shopping!
Why Is Foot Care So Important?
Let’s start with an explanation of why keeping your feet in tip-top condition is so vital if you are diabetic.
As you may know, blood flow to extremities can be compromised by raised blood sugar and your feet most definitely count as extremities.
As well as circulation issues, there’s also the risk of getting hurt and inviting infection because of peripheral neuropathy.
Put simply, you might have lost feeling in your feet because of damage to the nerves caused by high blood glucose, and therefore not realize if you have injured them.
Damaged feet can quickly become infected and without prompt treatment can lead to amputation becoming necessary.
A recent UK report from the British National Health Service revealed that in 2015, 135 people a week were undergoing diabetes-related amputations.
How Can You Cut Down the Risk of Complications?
You may be offered specialist foot care by your healthcare team, but it’s important to keep up proper diabetes skin care, and regularly check your own feet if it’s possible.
If your feet feel too far away and you aren’t bendy enough to get a good look, try using a mirror placed on the floor or ask a good friend, partner or carer to help — don’t let embarrassment get in the way of maintaining your health.
Diabetes Foot Care and You
Do you ensure you take proper care of your feet?
So What Are You Looking For?
Any areas of redness, pain, hard skin, blisters, burns, changes in color or shape, or damage like cuts should be mentioned to your healthcare team.
Don’t use blades or corn removing plasters as they can do more harm than good — seek expert help.
Ask someone to do regular touch tests. Sit with your feet up and close your eyes. Get your helper to very lightly touch the tip of your first, third and the fifth toes.
If you cannot feel them touching two of the three toes you should make an appointment to see your doctor or diabetes team.
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Best Foot Care Methods to Try
The best method of cleaning your feet is no different than those without diabetes, although some experts warn against soaking your feet as it can make your skin soft and soggy and can increase the risk of damaging them.
Keep feet moisturized (be careful walking barefoot afterwards!) but don’t use cream between your toes, as it might keep that area moist and athlete’s foot or similar infections could develop.
If you like to use talcum powder, don’t use too much between the toes as this can clog and make an ideal breeding ground for infection.
Looking after your nails is very important. If you are careful you can look after them yourself – cut or clip straight across to avoid ingrowing toenails taking care not to cut them too short.
If you like to treat yourself to a spa pedicure, make sure it is one with a good reputation and appropriate professional and hygiene certificates. To be honest, a professional podiatrist is your best and safest option.
Time to Get Shopping
So with beautiful clean and moisturized feet with no hard skin and neat nails, it’s time to think about what to put on them. Here’s your excuse for some shopping if you want/need one!
Sort through your sock drawer and get rid of any socks, tights, and stockings with holes, lumps and bumps. Don’t be tempted to darn — the stitches could rub and cause damage to your feet.
Opt for socks and stockings without prominent seams or tight elasticated tops, and make sure you smooth out any wrinkles. You can buy specially knitted socks that stay up but don’t obstruct full circulation.
Always wear comfortable shoes that fit properly with no tight spots or rubbing. Ideally have them fitted by an expert in a shoe store to make sure you buy the correct length and width.
Look for shoes that are broad with a deep and rounded toe area. Choose styles fastened with a buckle or laces to keep the heel at the back of the shoe and to stop the foot sliding forward and squashing the toes.
Leather shoes are best, ideally with a flat or low heel. Stiletto lovers, save your heels for really special occasions.
You should check inside your shoes before putting them on to make sure there are no small stones or other objects and to ensure the insole isn’t wrinkled — yes, even that can damage your feet!
Keep Those Feet Protected
And finally, although a barefoot walk through cool grass or warm sand might seem like a lovely idea, diabetic experts advise you keep your shoes on in case you inadvertently step on a sharp stone, shell or glass.
In fact, they recommend that even in summer those with diabetes avoid open shoes, which can let debris in.
The bonus of taking their advice is you’ll never again have to stop and try to balance on one foot while you try to shake out a teeny stone AND you vastly cut down the risk of cuts and infections.
Written by Afra Willmore
Diabetes and Foot Care: In Summary
- Many people with diabetes don't realize how important foot care is.
- Amputation of the toes, feet, or entire lower limbs is a possible consequence of not taking care of your feet.
- Circulation issues may arise due to raised blood sugar, leading to peripheral neuropathy — and losing feeling in your feet.
- This is an issue because you may accidentally injure your feet and not realize it, which can lead to a serious infection, and as a result, amputation.
- Check your own feet regularly for signs of injury and irritation, or have a partner, close friend or carer check for you.
- Make sure you keep feet moisturized and clean, and keep toe nails in good shape.
- Don't use damaged socks — replace them with ones without large seams or elastics.
- Take care to ensure your shoes fit properly and always check that there are no pebbles inside that could damage your feet.