For individuals managing diabetes, proper foot care is paramount in maintaining overall health and preventing complications. Diabetes can affect the nerves and blood vessels in the feet, making them more susceptible to infections and injuries. In this article, we will explore the importance of foot care in diabetes, daily self-checks, the impact of poor blood supply on feet, professional checks, and how to care for your feet to prevent complications.
Foot Care and Diabetes- A Crucial Connection: Diabetes can lead to nerve damage (neuropathy) and reduced blood circulation, particularly in the extremities such as the feet. These conditions increase the risk of foot problems, ranging from minor issues to severe infections that, if left untreated, could result in amputation.
Daily Feet Self-Checks: The First Line of Defense:
- Inspect Your Feet: Examine your feet daily for cuts, blisters, redness, swelling, ulcers, ingrown nails or any abnormalities.
- Wash Your Feet: Keep your feet clean, but avoid soaking them for prolonged periods, as this can contribute to dry skin.
- Moisturise: Apply a moisturiser or even better a heel balm to prevent dry skin, but avoid applying it between the toes to prevent moisture buildup.
- Trim Nails Carefully: Trim toenails straight across to prevent ingrown nails and avoid cutting into the corners.
Poor Blood Supply and Feet Issues: Reduced blood circulation, often associated with diabetes, can lead to slow wound healing and increase the risk of infections. Here are some signs of poor blood supply:
- sharp leg cramps after walking short distances or up stairs
- pain in your feet, even at rest or in the early hours of the morning
- feet feeling cold
- feel looking a reddish-blue colour
- cuts that are slow to heal.
Professional Checks: A Collaborative Approach: Regular check-ups with healthcare professionals, including podiatrists, are crucial for individuals with diabetes. At your check-up, your doctor will look at:
- blood flow to your feet (circulation)
- feeling and reflexes (nerves)
- unusual foot shapes (bunions, claw toes, hammer toes)
- dryness, calluses, corns, cracks or infections.
Caring for Your Feet: Preventive Measures:
- Choose Proper Footwear: Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes to reduce the risk of blisters and calluses. Cover your feet. Use a clean diabetes friendly sock or stocking without rough seams and with a loose top
- Keep Feet Warm and Dry: Cold feet can worsen circulation issues, so wear warm socks and ensure your feet stay dry.
- Manage Blood Sugar Levels: Maintaining stable blood sugar levels contributes to better nerve and blood vessel health.
- Know your feet well: Wash, dry and check your feet every day. Check for redness, swelling, cuts, pus discharge, splinters or blisters. Take care to look between toes, around heels and nail edges and at the soles of the feet. If you have difficulty with your vision, get someone to check for you.
- Get your feet checked: See your GP or podiatrist at least once a year for a thorough foot exam.
What Happens if I Have an Injury?
In the event of an injury, no matter how minor, prompt attention is crucial:
- Clean the Wound: Wash the wound gently with mild soap and water.
- Apply an Antiseptic: Use an antiseptic ointment to prevent infection.
- Cover the Wound: Keep the wound covered with a clean, dry bandage.
- Seek Medical Attention: Consult a healthcare professional for proper wound care, especially if you notice signs of infection such as redness, swelling, or increased pain.
Caring for your feet is an integral part of managing diabetes and ensuring a healthy, active lifestyle. Daily self-checks, attention to proper footwear, and collaboration with healthcare professionals are key components of effective foot care. By adopting preventive measures and addressing issues promptly, individuals with diabetes can significantly reduce the risk of foot complications and enjoy the freedom of movement that contributes to a fulfilling life. Regular foot care is a vital investment in your overall well-being when living with diabetes.
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If you think you may have a medical emergency, call 911 (in the US) or 000 (in Australia) immediately, call your doctor, or go to the emergency room/urgent care.