The elevated blood sugar levels associated with diabetes mellitus cause a range of complications. Between one-third and one-half of diabetics will develop peripheral neuropathy, nerve damage that usually affects the feet and legs. Diabetics also have reduced circulation, which in combination with peripheral neuropathy means that even minor foot issues can quickly become medical emergencies, possibly even requiring amputation. For this reason, diabetic foot care should be high on the self-care list of any diabetic.
A study at the Regenstrief Institute for Health Care in Indianapolis showed that diabetics who practiced proper foot care were nearly 60% less likely to have a serious foot problem than those who did not.
Diabetics should follow these ten tips to make sure their feet get the care they need to keep them healthy.
- You should check your feet every day, including the bottoms and between the toes. If you can’t see part of your foot, don’t skip it: use a mirror, or ask another person to check for you.
Look out for any issues, however minor, including: athlete’s foot, blisters, calluses, corns, cracks or cuts in the skin, ingrown toenails, red spots, swelling, unusual odor, and changes in how the foot looks, whether in shape or color. Also note if a foot feels unusual; this includes tingling, numbness, warmth, or burning.
- Don’t use over-the-counter medications to treat a foot problem. Diabetic feet are extremely sensitive. Products not specifically prescribed for you might lead to further irritation. If you notice anything unusual with one or both of your feet, call your doctor.
- Wash and your feet every day, and be sure to dry them carefully.
- Be sure to dry between your toes especially well, since residual moisture between the toes can lead to a fungal infection.
- Moisturize the tops and bottoms of your feet.
- Use talcum powder or cornstarch between your toes, because those areas should be kept dry.
- Always wear socks and shoes. Going barefoot — even at home — or wearing shoes without socks can lead to cuts and other injuries that are dangerous for the diabetic foot.
- Make sure your socks are always clean and dry. Change them daily, at minimum. Change them again if they become dirty, sweaty or wet.
- Encourage circulation to your feet by putting them up whenever you’re sitting. Never cross your legs for any extended period of time, since that will hamper circulation.
- Last but certainly not least: the most important thing you can do to protect your feet — and the rest of your body — is to keep your blood sugar under control. This is not only a foot care issue, blood sugar regulation affects every aspect of your health.
Following these tips will keep you on your feet for years to come.
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