Diabetes is a condition that requires constant vigilance – blood sugar monitoring, food intake, timely medication and personal care. Many vital organs and systems come under fire as a result of this disease such as the eyes, the heart, the kidneys, blood vessels, the digestive system, the skin and the feet to name a few. One has to be very careful about monitoring daily processes and the progress of this disease.
Below we highlight some of the complications arising out of damage to the nerves and blood vessels in the feet brought on by diabetes and how you can prevent and care for them.
Diabetic neuropathy – There are various types of diabetic neuropathy but the one that affects the feet and legs most is known as peripheral neuropathy. Having high levels of sugar in your bloodstream damages blood vessels and since the feet are at the very end of the body (at the bottom when one is standing) they are the most susceptible to complications.
When the nerves get damaged, they cannot send signals to the brain alerting the person to injury. The patient can sense no prodding, prick, pinch, heat, cold or pain. This puts them at risk for a variety of problems like cuts that could get infected because of not being treated, as well as ulcers and sores.
Peripheral vascular disease – A patient suffering from this condition has a buildup of atherosclerotic plaque resulting in inadequate blood flow in the arms and legs. If a person gets cut, it takes much longer for the injury or wound to heal. If untreated it can even become gangrenous, requiring amputation.
Diabetics can face a lot of other foot-related problems like corns, calluses, bunions, ingrown toenails and hammertoes which are extremely painful and prevent movement.
Therefore it is crucial to ensure the health of one’s feet. Here are a few ways recommended by experts:
- Keep diabetes in check and maintain healthy blood sugar levels
- Examine your feet closely before you go to bed each night for cuts, swelling, blisters etc. If you have difficulties, use a mirror to help you.
- Wash your feet regularly in warm, NOT hot water. Dry your feet carefully especially between the toes.
- The skin of a diabetic has a tendency to be dry and callused so be sure to use a good moisturizer to keep your skin soft and supple. Avoid applying lotion between the toes.
- Smoothen out corns and calluses as gently as possible.
- Trim your toenails regularly.
- Always choose comfortable footwear, avoid walking around barefoot. Wearing socks is always a good idea.
- It is crucial to keep changing feet positions. Try to stretch and keep your legs slightly elevated to enable blood flow to your feet. Wiggle your toes and move your ankles up and down a couple of times a day.
- Be as active as possible under the advice of your doctor.
- Get your feet checked by your doctor regularly. He/she will notice signs of a problem that you could easily miss or overlook.
- Follow your doctor’s instructions on footcare.