It’s concerning how common diabetes is becoming in the U.S. If you combine the number of people who are diabetic with those who have pre-diabetes—which means they aren’t quite diabetic yet, but are close and at risk for crossing over the threshold---you’ll see the disease either currently affects, or is on the verge of affecting, roughly 110 million people!
Now, if you’re an average person, you probably know diabetes has something to do with blood sugar levels. Do you know exactly what’s the problem with having too much glucose (sugar) in the blood stream?
Put simply, diabetes causes widespread systemic damage throughout the entire body. Since we’re focusing on protecting and inspecting the feet, let’s take a quick look at three systems and how the damage can affect your lower limbs.
Diabetes damages your nervous, circulatory, and immune systems. What this means is:
- Nerves do not report painful sensations to the brain. As a result, you can’t feel if there’s a cut on your foot. This isn’t a good thing, though. In fact, it’s downright dangerous.
- Blood flow slows due to constricted blood vessels. Take a moment and think about what might be the farthest point on your body from your heart. If you have normal human anatomy, it’s your feet. Blood already has the longest trip down to the feet and back – and constricted blood vessels caused by diabetes only makes the trip take longer.
- Your immune system is compromised. Diabetes takes away your body’s abilities to heal damaged tissue in a timely manner and defend itself from infection.
Since your natural body systems aren’t performing in their intended manner, it’s up to you to pick up the load. This means having a comprehensive diabetic foot care plan in place – one centered on both protecting your feet and finding problems at their earliest, most treatable stages.
With regards to protective measures, some components of your diabetic foot care plan will include:
- Diabetic shoe choices. Make sure that your shoes fit comfortably, but are not so loose that your feet slide around inside and pose the risk of blisters. You should be able to wiggle your toes, yet still have your heel supported and cradled. Our office can assist you in finding footwear that works best for you.
- Nail care. Keep your toenails short and straight. Instead of doing this yourself, schedule an appointment and have it done at our office for optimal safety.
- Cleanliness. Protect yourself from the threat of infection by washing your feet daily. Use a mild soap and warm water. Avoid hot water, since neuropathy may prevent you from realizing when you are burning your skin. Afterwards, be sure to dry your feet thoroughly.
- Skin care. Excessive dryness can lead to cracks and fissures that enable microorganisms to enter your body. After cleaning your feet, apply lotion to the heels, tops, and bottoms of your feet. Avoid the areas between your toes as this can create an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive.
Due to the fact that your feet spend so much time covered—coupled with the neuropathy (nerve damage) that can accompany diabetes—it is entirely possible for you to be unaware of a developing condition. In time, minor conditions become a major complications. We would rather see you avoid the potential for danger, so carefully inspect your feet every day for:
- Cuts, scratches, and scrapes. When you discover these, wash the affected area carefully and apply an antibiotic cream recommended by our office. If there is redness, oozing, or foul-smelling discharge, call us as soon as possible.
- Skin issues. Keep your feet from becoming too dry, which can ultimately lead to fissures and cracking. Itching and redness are possible signs of infection and need to be treated right away. Blue or black coloration are indications of circulation issues and you must seek emergency care immediately.
- Blisters, corns, calluses, warts, and other growths. Any abnormality that you note on your feet has the potential for leading to a dangerous infection. A blister that bursts or callus that cracks can open the door for a microorganism to enter your body.
- Ingrown or discolored toenails. Ingrown nails will dig into your skin and increase the risk of infection. Discolored nails are a sign of fungal infection and need professional treatment.
These are essential components of diabetic foot care, but this is only scratching the surface. Your best starting point for keeping your feet safe is to come see us at Foot Specialists of Long Island. We will help you put a plan in place and are here to provide professional care and treatment when problems develop.Contact us today to request an appointment by calling (516) 804-9038. Together, we can create your diabetic foot care plan to lower your risk of serious medical complications!