If you haven’t spent much time thinking about the potential effects of diabetes on your feet, it’s time to get started. This is your complete guide to foot care and diabetes, straight from the experts at ADS.
Why is Foot Care Important for Diabetics?
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes can come with potential complications. You are probably watching out for symptoms of everything from heart problems to eye disease—just to name a few of the many health issues associated with diabetes.
Compared to these complications, the thought of diabetes-related foot problems may not sound like a big deal. Even so, these problems can get to the point where some diabetes patients need to partially or fully amputate their feet. Because of that, it’s a good idea for people with diabetes to prioritize foot care. Keep reading for all the information you need about foot care and diabetes from the pros at ADS.
How Nerve Damage Can Affect Foot Care for Those with Diabetes
As much as 50 percent of people with diabetes also suffer from “diabetic neuropathy”—AKA nerve damage. This diabetes complication can affect any body part but is particularly common in people’s feet and legs. Risk factors for nerve damage in diabetes patients include:
- Living with diabetes for a long time (especially if your blood sugar is often elevated)
- Having trouble managing your blood glucose
- Being older than 40
- Having high blood pressure or high cholesterol
- Having extra weight
As a result of nerve damage, you may feel sensations like pain, tingling, or numbness. Conversely, some people dealing with diabetic neuropathy experience no symptoms or have trouble feeling pain, coldness, or heat in the affected nerves. While not feeling pain might sound pleasant, that’s far from the truth—after all, pain is how your body lets you know something’s wrong. Without that signal, a small cut or blister could become a much larger problem without your knowledge.
Nerve damage is dangerous enough in isolation, but many people with diabetes develop blood flow problems at the same time. The combination of these issues comes with an increased risk of foot ulcers, which could quickly get infected. If an infected foot ulcer doesn’t respond well to treatment, you may have to get a toe, a foot, or even part of a leg amputated.
Tips to Prevent Diabetic Nerve Damage
Clearly, nerve damage can cause severe issues for people with diabetes. Keeping your blood sugar within range is the most effective way to avoid this complication (or to prevent it from getting worse). Along with that, keep these diabetes management tips in mind:
- Follow a nutritious diabetes diet that’s filled with fresh produce and low in sugar and salt.
- Get at least some physical activity daily. Even 10 or 20 minutes of exercise each day is better than getting an hour once per week.
- Avoid smoking. Along with the other health issues caused by smoking, this habit can cut down on blood flow to your feet.
- Take any medications prescribed by your doctor.
How to Keep Your Feet Healthy for Diabetes Management
If you have diabetes, you’ll need to take foot health seriously. Here are some valuable pieces of advice for foot care and diabetes:
- Take care of your feet every day. As part of your daily routine, look at your feet for cuts, swelling, blisters, sores, or any other changes. You should also wash your feet each day in warm—not hot—water, thoroughly dry them, and apply lotion to the top and bottom of your feet. (Don’t put lotion between your toes, since it could cause an infection!)
- Avoid going barefoot—even indoors. Make a point of wearing shoes and socks or slippers wherever you go. Along with that, check your shoes for pebbles and other foreign objects that could cause injury.
- Wear shoes that fit comfortably. When it’s time to buy new shoes, try them on near the end of the day when your feet are at their largest. Once you’ve chosen a pair, wear them for a few hours each day until they’re fully broken in.
- Trim your toenails the right way. That means trimming them straight across and using a nail file to smooth out the sharp edges. If you can’t reach your feet on your own, ask your podiatrist for assistance with toenail trimming.
- Don’t take care of corn/callus removal by yourself. Don’t use over-the-counter products to do this, either. These could easily cause burns on your skin.
- Encourage blood flow to your feet. Wiggle your toes for a few minutes multiple times daily, and put your feet up while you’re sitting.
- Get your feet checked by the professionals. Ask for a foot check at every healthcare visit, and visit a podiatrist at least once a year for a comprehensive exam.
- Get exercise that’s right for your feet. A few good types of physical activity for people with diabetes include swimming, bike riding, and walking. Your healthcare team can give you more advice on what activities to prioritize and what activities to avoid.
What Are Symptoms of Diabetic Foot Problems?
Sometimes, you shouldn’t wait until an appointment to take care of your feet. See your healthcare team or foot doctor ASAP if you notice:
- Leg pain or cramping in your calves, thighs, or buttocks during exercise
- Reduced sense of touch, heat, or cold
- Hair loss on your feet and lower legs
- Changes in the temperature and color of your feet
- Fungal infections between your toes (such as athlete’s foot)
- Foot pain, tingling, or burning
- Changes in the shape of your feet
- Cracked, dry foot skin
- Yellow, thick toenails
- Blisters, ulcers, sores, ingrown toenails, and the like
Put Your Feet Up—Order Diabetes Supplies Online
While foot complications are closely associated with diabetes, they aren’t inevitable among people living with this disease. Taking foot care and diabetes management seriously now can help you avoid foot problems in the future.
As part of your diabetes management strategy, it’s wise to have a reliable place to order the diabetes supplies you need. At ADS, we sell insulin, CGM systems, diabetes testing supplies, and more products—all of which you can purchase online right now!