We rely on our feet to get us to and from destinations both big and small each day. From a run with the dog to a short walk down the aisle, our feet are there for us each step of the way. In honor of Foot Health Month, we would like to encourage you to stop and think about the importance our feet play in our daily lives, and the importance of keeping them healthy.
Proper care of your feet should be a focus for people of every age, but can be especially important for those diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes can affect the health of your feet and puts diabetic patients at a higher risk for complications. By controlling diabetes, patients can keep their feet in tip top shape for years to come!
Why & How Diabetes Affects Your Feet.
When left uncontrolled, diabetes can cause a number of complications, including foot health issues. If diabetes is not treated properly, it can cause neuropathy, or nerve damage in the feet called neuropathy. Neuropathy is a loss of feeling heat, cold or pain. The loss of sensation can make it difficult to feel injury, such as burning from hot sand or blisters forming from your shoes. When left untreated, even the smallest of injuries can lead to major complications like serious infection and potentially amputation.
Diabetes also affects the flow of blood throughout your body. This lack of effective blood circulation makes it harder for a sore or cut to heal. If your foot sustains an injury and there isn’t adequate blood flow to help heal the wound, there is a risk of the tissue developing necrosis, or dying and eventually becoming gangrene. In order to stop the spread of gangrene, the dead tissue needs to be removed completely from the body. In serious cases, amputation is used to remove a toe, foot or portions of the leg with gangrene. With proper care and treatment, this can be prevented.
Warning Signs of Diabetic Foot Problems
Being aware of the warning signs of potential foot problems is imperative. While all of these issues can arise with anyone, diabetics are at a higher risk for more serious complications, due to the tendency for them to experience poor circulation and blood flow. . Several signs you should never ignore when it comes to your feet:
- Increase swelling of legs or feet
- Change of skin color
- Burning or tingling sensation
- Lack of feeling in the feet
- Numbness in the toes
- Ingrown toenails
- Slow to heal sores
- Cracks between toes
- Bunions & Hammertoes
- Planters Warts
- Athlete’s foot
- Loss of hair on toes or legs
If you notice any of these symptoms contact your doctor immediately. Any delay can potentially put you at risk for more health complications and issues.
Preventative Action Against Diabetic Foot Problems.
Daily actions can make all the difference when it comes to keeping your feet healthy. The following tips can make all the difference, and neglecting to perform them regularly could lead to serious complications.
Brenda Borkgren, UnityPoint Clinic family medicine nurse practitioner who specializes in diabetes, reiterates the importance of taking care of your feet and looking for potential problems.
“The symptom that is the number one cause of amputations for diabetic patients is the loss of sensation. It is critical for diabetics to maintain good control of their blood glucose in order to prevent damage to the nervous system.”
She also stresses that wearing the proper shoes and never going barefoot can help.
“With good foot care, most amputations can be prevented, and if diabetic peripheral neuropathy (loss of sensation) does develop, diabetic shoes are a necessity.”
Inspect feet daily. Keep your eyes peeled for small cuts, scrapes, infected toenails, blisters or anything that may lead to an infection.
Check blood pressure normally.
Wash feet daily with warm, not hot, water and be sure to dry thoroughly.
Avoid situations that could potentially become “too hot”. Because of nerve damage in the toes, you could burn yourself without realizing water is too hot.
Wear appropriate shoes. Break in new shoes slowly to avoid blisters from forming and avoid shoes that consistently rub a certain part of the foot.
Don’t go barefoot. If you’re unable to feel an injury, you have a higher risk of infection.
Get daily exercise. Taking a short walk everyday can help increase your blood flow and circulation.
Avoid at home “remedies” for sores, warts or calluses. Harsh chemicals can create the starting point of infections.
Keep tops and bottoms of feet moisturized.
Quit smoking. Smoking can further decreased blood flow to the feet.
Don’t be hesitant to call your doctor. Even the smallest things can be fixed faster with the help of a professional.
Promoting Healthy Feet with UnityPoint at Home
UnityPoint at Home can not only help you treat and manage your Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, but can also help you find the shoes and other products needed at our Home Medical Equipment locations. Our trained staff will help assess your health equipment needs and find the necessary products to help you put your best foot forward.