People with diabetes need to take good care of their feet as they are more likely than others to have problems. It is important to recognize and treat any foot problems early to avoid serious complications.
How does diabetes affect my feet?
Higher levels of sugar in the blood can damage sensory nerves (a condition called neuropathy), especially in hands and feet. This damage decreases the feeling of pain, which means you are less likely to be aware when you have a small cut or blister for example. Higher blood sugar levels can also cause the hardening of blood vessels, which causes poor circulation, which then causes slow healing. If the cut or blister is not noticed, it can become infected and if not treated quickly, the infection can get worse and lead to gangrene. Gangrene is a serious infection that if not treated, could require to the removal of part of the foot or leg.
A feeling of numbness, tingling or burning pain in the feet is a sign that the nerves in your feet may be damaged.
Redness, swelling, warm sensation of the feet are all possible signs of infection.
Smoking also increases your risk of foot problems because smoking also causes the blood vessels to harden. This is another reason why quitting smoking is strongly encouraged.
Preventing Foot Problems
- Control your blood sugars. This helps to delay or prevent sensory damage and hardening of blood vessels.
- Look at your feet everyday! Make sure to check in between your toes too! You may need a mirror to look at the bottom of your feet or get someone else to look at the bottom of your feet. Look for sores, cuts, cracks, blisters, redness and swelling.
- Wash and completely dry your feet everyday. Donít forget between your toes. Apply moisturizing lotion to dry or cracked skin and to the soles of your feet. Make sure to wipe away any excess lotion. Do not put lotion between your toes.
- Clean cuts and scratches with water and milk soap. Rinse properly and cover with a clean, dry dressing.
- Have your feet checked by a doctor at least once a year and more often if you are at risk for foot ulcers.
- Avoid tight socks or stockings.
- Wear proper footwear. Wear shoes that are in good condition and fit properly. They should not rub or pinch. They need to be supportive and should have a low heel. Never go barefoot.
According to a study in the November 2007 issue of the International Journal of Clinical Practice, 63% of people with diabetes are at high risk for serious foot problems by wearing the wrong-sized shoes. In particular, 45% were wearing the wrong width fitting, with the majority wearing shoes that were too narrow.