Diabetes is a malicious disease that not only increases your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, vision problems, kidney and liver diseases, but also reduces blood supply to your feet, which can lead to devastating consequences, if left untreated. Blood that is laden with high levels of glucose, takes longer than usual to reach the feet, thereby depriving the leg of oxygen and essential nutrients required for its normal functioning. Hence, healing of leg injuries like cuts, bruises, blisters and sores is delayed to a great extent.
Also, diabetes is one of the primary causes of peripheral neuropathy, a condition marked by nerve damage and a loss of connection between blood vessels and nerves. This leads to numbness or loss of sensation of pain in the feet, which allows many leg injuries to go unnoticed. Over a period of time, minor leg injuries can turn into major infections, which cannot be healed by the body and therefore require leg amputations. Hence, practicing certain tips and proper foot care can help you reduce the risk of infections and save your legs from getting amputated.
Foot Care Tips for Diabetic Patients
Examine your Feet Regularly
Peripheral neuropathy affects about 70% of diabetic patients every year. Since this condition is marked by a loss of sensation in the feet, it is difficult for diabetic patients to feel the presence of any injuries like bruises, cuts and sores on the feet. Hence, examining your feet every day, especially the spaces between the toes and the bottom of the feet, after taking a shower can help you keep an account of any signs of infection. You can also place a mirror under your feet or ask for assistance from a relative or friend to thoroughly investigate your feet.
Wear the Right Footwear
Since diabetic patients may develop neuropathy and lose the ability to sense pain in the leg and feet, slight rubbing or shoe bytes that occur after wearing misfit shoes can go unnoticed and turn into a major infection. Hence, it has been advised to wear seamless shoes that provide an extra depth, larger toe box and can relieve areas of excess vertical and horizontal pressure, thus preventing the occurrence of foot ulcers. Wearing the right kind of socks and an insole can help you avoid rubbing your skin with the rough and pointed edges of the shoes.
In addition, diabetic patients should never stay barefoot to avoid minor cuts or bruises that occur due to the penetration of pointed objects like misplaced needles, safety pins and glass pieces, into the feet. It is also mandatory to check properly for the presence of nails or any other sharp objects in shoes or socks to avoid getting hurt and develop sores that might become infected and never heal. Moreover, doctors may prescribe special shoes like healing shoes, open-toe sandals, extra-depth shoes, etc., for mitigating the symptoms associated with a diabetic foot.
Use Lukewarm Water to Wash your Feet
Most often, diabetic patients fail to sense the temperature of the water and may accidently scald the skin of their feet due to the heat. This can lead to blisters and dry skin that can pave way to an infection. Also, diabetic patients are advised to check the temperature of water using their elbows, before getting into hot tubs or shower, since their feet might not be able to gauge the temperature.
Nevertheless, it is a good practice to wash your feet with lukewarm water on a daily basis. Make sure that you do not place your feet for a long duration of time in water, since waterlogged sores or blisters may take longer to heal.
Also, moist skin is very susceptible to infections. Hence, it is important to dry your feet immediately after washing, by taking extra care to gently rub the airtight space between your toes. You can use a moisturizing lotion on a daily basis to prevent the skin from becoming excessively dry and cracked.
Consider Non-Impact Aerobic Exercises
Exercise serves as the best way for improving blood circulation and tapping into the natural healing abilities of the body. However, exercises that put a lot of pressure on the feet like jumping, leaping or running can worsen the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy.
Hence, low impact exercises like walking, swimming, cycling and yoga can help you extract the benefits of exercise, without placing excess strain on your feet. Nonetheless, you should consider discussing the potential benefits and risks of different types of exercises with a doctor, before adapting an exercise regimen for yourself.
Do Not Ignore Corns, Calluses and Hammertoes
Foot woes like calluses, bunions, corns and hammertoes are very common in patients suffering from diabetic neuropathy and are potentially dangerous, if left untreated. Repeated pressure or constant rubbing of the skin can lead to the appearance of hardened and thick skin on the top and sides of the toes and the soles of the feet, often termed as corns and calluses.
Wearing narrow-toed and high –heeled shoes can lead to the formation of fluid-filled sacs at the base of the toes and bony bumps called bunions that exert excess pressure on the feet and elicit pain. Yet another consequence of wearing ill fitted shoes and high heels is the deformity of toes that appear bent, in the shape of a hammer.
These mild injuries are exacerbated by the damage done to the nerves and blood vessels in the feet of patients suffering from diabetic neuropathy. Hence, it is important to consult a podiatric physician, a doctor who specializes in the treatment of deformities of the foot, ankle and the lower extremity, to help you take proper foot care and avoid aggravating the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. Do not rely on over-the-counter medication and lotions to treat skin problems, since the chemical ingredients found in these products can irritate the skin and worsen the condition of your feet.
Considering the inadvertent consequences of negligence of foot injuries in diabetic patients, it is crucially important to follow the aforementioned safety measures to maintain healthy feet. Also, diabetic patients should always inform their doctors about any unusual changes in sensation, numbness, tingling and a needle like prickling sensation in their feet and legs, to avoid leg amputations.