If you are diabetic, you probably are aware that you have a high risk of problems with your feet.
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes both cause damage to small blood vessels and nerves in the legs and feet. This makes them vulnerable to life-threatening infections.
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a narrowing or blockage of the blood vessels. One sign that you have PAD is pain in your calves while walking. This is caused by lack of oxygen to your lower body. If left untreated, PAD can lead to ulcers (sores) on your feet or tissue death (gangrene).
Peripheral neuropathy (PN) causes a lack of sensation in the feet, which may lead you to overlook injuries. You might have a blister on your foot and not notice until it is raw and bleeding.
There are other, less threatening changes to the feet as well. For instance, you might notice that your skin is very dry. This happens because the nerves that normally control the moisture and oil in your feet are not working properly.
Home Care for Diabetic Feet
Although you might be tempted to soak your dry feet in water, it’s not a good idea. Soaking actually depletes the skin of moisture. Instead, dry your feet thoroughly after washing, then apply a thin coat of Vaseline petroleum jelly or unscented hand cream. Avoid rubbing oils and creams between your toes; the extra moisture can lead to infection.
If you notice calluses or corns, tell the doctor. We’ll remove them surgically. It’s best not to cut them away yourself because of the risk of infection. Commercial products that claim to ‘burn’ away calluses or corns with chemicals can also ‘burn’ your skin. If you trim your toenails, cut straight across and try not to cut too deeply at the corners.
Diabetic Feet and Fungal Infection
Fungal infections are common among healthy people, but they are even more prevalent in diabetics.
Another common complaint from my diabetic patients is foot ulcers.
Even if the sores don’t hurt, it’s best to bring them to the doctor’s attention. Again, because the risk of infection is ever-present and could lead to the worst-case scenario (gangrene or amputation), it’s important to take even minor injuries seriously.
Avoid walking on an ulcerated foot. The pressure can cause the ulcer to spread and may drive it deeper into the skin. Ulcers are one more reason why it’s important to keep your blood glucose at a healthy level. High blood glucose interfere with the body’s ability to fight infections.
Healthy Feet to Prevent Major Problems
You may need to wear special footwear after an ulcer is healed because scars are vulnerable to breaking open and becoming infected. Check your feet every day for signs of blisters, wounds or infection and tell the doctor immediately if you find anything.
If your feet are cold, wear a pair of warm socks around the house. It’s best not to use heating pads or hot water bottles because you might not feel the heat if it is burning your skin.
Exercise will improve the circulation in your legs. If you feel calf pain while walking, stop and rest for a few minutes. Get some good sturdy shoes and don’t try to walk if you have open sores on your feet.
Ultimately, the best way to prevent foot problems is to keep your diabetes under control.
- Follow the diet recommended by your doctor.
- Quit smoking, if you haven’t already.
- Check your blood sugar regularly.
Remember that your feet are more vulnerable because of diabetes. But with care and treatment they will not become a life-threatening affliction.