Diabetic Foot Care
Whether they know it or not, it’s estimated that more than 30 million Americans suffer from some form of diabetes—including nearly a quarter of seniors. If you’re one of them, your feet are at risk.
People with diabetes are prone to developing critical foot problems, including severe deformities and lingering ulcers, and wounds that won’t heal. In the United States, more than 70,000 people per year require a lower limb amputation as a result of their diabetes, usually to contain a wound that has become badly infected.
The statistics are indeed grim. But you don’t have to join them! Most serious diabetic foot problems are 100% preventable. If you take care of your feet, they’ll take care of you.
Why Is Diabetes So Dangerous for Feet?
There are two main reasons: neuropathy and circulation.
- High blood sugar levels, and the associated inflammation, poisons nerves and cuts them off from the oxygen and nutrients they need. The nerves become damaged and their function is impaired, meaning you might not be able to feel your feet properly if they get injured.
- People with diabetes also can suffer from reduced blood flow to the lower extremities. Without access to vital nutrients, injuries and wounds take longer to heal. Your immune system is also impaired, meaning those wounds are far more likely to become infected.
Because of these twin factors, people with diabetes are more likely to hurt themselves, less likely to notice they’ve been hurt, and more likely to have those injuries develop into serious (even life-threatening) problems.
How Can I Prevent Diabetic Foot Complications?
If you want to keep your feet healthy and injury-free—so you can remain active and independent as long as possible—you need to be disciplined about caring for both your feet and your entire body.
- Manage your condition well. Almost all serious diabetic foot problems have the same basic cause—elevated blood sugar levels and the damage they do to the body over time. So, managing your underlying condition is of paramount importance. A healthy diet, regular exercise, and keeping your sugar levels in an appropriate range are all critical.
- Develop healthy hygiene habits. Even relatively simple skin irritations (such as dry skin, cracked heels, or athlete’s foot) can be dangerous for someone with diabetes. Give your feet a good wash each day using mild soap and warm water. Make sure you dry them thoroughly (including between toes), then apply moisturizer and a clean pair of socks.
- Inspect your feet at home every day. Give yourself a daily, 5-minute self-exam and fully inspect your feet and toenails for injuries, rashes, swelling, temperature fluctuations, etc. This will help you identify any problems you may have missed (due to loss of nerve sensitivity or otherwise).
- Get an annual diabetic checkup at Comprehensive Foot Centers. Not all diabetic complications are visible from the outside. Often, the signs of neuropathy won’t become apparent until the nerves are already severely damaged. During your appointment, we can test the health of your nerves and circulation. We will also provide maintenance care for any issues you may be experiencing (calluses, ulcers, thick toenails).
- Wear diabetic shoes. Diabetic shoes may be recommended for patients at high risk. They come in the same sorts of styles and fashions as any other pair of shoes but are designed with certain features to protect your feet—extra depth to accommodate orthotics, no interior seams, etc. Getting a good pair is easy. We’ll show you samples, take your measurements, and even confirm approval from your insurance provider.
What Should I Do If I Develop a Foot Problem?
If you suffer any kind of foot injury, develop a deformity (such as a bunion), or notice anything unusual during your daily self-exams—rashes, swelling, blisters, etc. that do not improve—please call us immediately for an appointment. Due to the serious nature of diabetic foot complications, we will accommodate you as quickly as possible.
In addition to basic skin and nail care maintenance, our medical team provides advanced wound care services and products for those with ulcers, either in our office or at a nearby wound care center. We also provide reconstructive surgical options for foot deformities, including Charcot foot (a diabetes-related condition where the entire foot collapses and becomes severely disfigured).
We will do everything in our power to heal your injuries, prevent or eliminate any infections, and restore full function to your feet so you can avoid amputation and resume a full, healthy lifestyle.