For people with diabetes, foot complications like neuropathy and circulation problems can make it difficult for wounds to heal. Serious problems can arise from common skin issues like sores, cuts, and ulcers.
In this article, we’ll look at the types of food problems that can occur in people with diabetes. We’ll also go over some tips for healthy feet.
Diabetes that isn’t well managed can lead to slower healing. These slow-to-heal wounds can lead to infections.
Other foot issues, like calluses, are also common in people with diabetes. While calluses may not seem worrisome, if left untrimmed they can turn into ulcers or open sores.
People with diabetes are also at risk for Charcot joint, a condition in which a weight-bearing joint progressively degenerates, leading to bone loss and deformity.
Because of nerve damage, people with diabetes may not immediately notice that there are problems with their feet.
Over time, people with diabetic neuropathy can develop foot problems that can’t be healed, which can lead to amputations. Diabetes is one of the leading causes of lower-extremity amputations in the United States.
High blood sugar levels in people with diabetes can cause peripheral neuropathy, the medical term for numbness and loss of sensation due to damage to the nerves that serve the feet and hands.
People with diabetic neuropathy can’t feel various sensations, like pressure or touch, as intensely as those without damage to their nerves. On the other hand, peripheral neuropathy is often very painful, causing burning, tingling, or other painful feelings in the feet.
If a wound isn’t felt right away, it can go unchecked. Poor circulation can make it difficult for the body to heal these wounds. Infection can then set in and become so serious that amputation becomes necessary.
Checking the feet for abnormalities is a very important part of diabetes care. Abnormalities may include:
- calluses or corns
- red or swollen spots on the feet
- hot spots, or areas that are warm to the touch
- changes in skin color
- ingrown or overgrown toenails
- dry or cracked skin
If you notice any of these symptoms, be sure to go to your doctor right away.
In addition to keeping your blood sugar level within its target range, there are several steps that people with diabetes can take to prevent foot complications.
To improve blood flow to the lower extremities, people with diabetes should walk as regularly as possible in shoes or sneakers that are:
Exercising also reduces hypertension and keeps weight down, which is crucial. Another important part of preventive care is for your doctor to check your feet every visit and test them for touch sensation once per year.
To keep your feet healthy, follow these tips:
- Check your feet daily. This includes between the toes. If you can’t see your feet, use a mirror to help.
- Visit a doctor. Talk with your healthcare professional if you notice any wounds or abnormalities on your feet.
- Don’t walk barefooted, even around the house. Small sores can turn into big problems. Walking on hot pavement without shoes can cause damage that you might not feel.
- Consider cutting down on or quitting smoking. Smoking narrows blood vessels and contributes to poor circulation.
- Keep your feet clean and dry. Don’t soak them. Pat feet dry — don’t rub.
- Moisturize your feet after cleaning. But don’t moisturize between the toes.
- Avoid hot water. Check tub water temperature with your hand, not your foot.
- Trim toenails after bathing. Cut straight across and then smooth with a soft nail file. Check for sharp edges and never cut cuticles.
- Use a pumice stone to keep calluses in check. Never cut calluses or corns yourself, or use over-the-counter chemicals on them.
- Visit a podiatrist. They can help with additional nail and callus care.
- Wear the right footwear. Make sure that shoes are properly fitting and socks are made from a natural fiber, like cotton or wool. Don’t wear new shoes for more than an hour at a time. Check your feet carefully after removing shoes. Check inside your shoes for raised areas or objects before you put them on. Avoid high heels and shoes with pointed toes.
- Keep your feet warm. If your feet are cold, warm them with socks.
- Keep your feet moving. Wiggle your toes and pump your ankles while sitting.
- Don’t cross your legs. Doing so may constrict blood flow.
- Take injuries seriously. Keep off your feet and elevate your legs if you have an injury.
If you have diabetes, it’s possible to avoid foot complications if you’re diligent and maintain blood sugar levels. Daily inspection of your feet is also essential.
All people with diabetes need to be proactive. Ask questions. Work with your doctor to develop guidelines for foot care. These measures will help prevent complications before they occur.