“I’ve Been Diagnosed with Diabetes, How do I Protect My Feet?”
When you are diagnosed with diabetes, it is overwhelming to keep everything straight in regards to keeping your body protected. Initially you will be educated on proper diet and lifestyle adjustments required to help manage this condition. There will be discussions with your primary care doctor about the different possible complications related to diabetes including eye problems, kidney problems, heart and circulation problems. Unfortunately, foot care can get lost in the conversations. Proper diabetic foot care is, however, critical in the overall health of the diabetic patient.
Deciding to live a healthy diabetic lifestyle from the beginning can help avoid the potential complications associated with diabetes. Small subtle changes in your daily routine can help to minimize the risk of diabetic foot problems.
Let’s first begin with the daily foot inspection. Inspection of the diabetic foot is important as it can catch early signs of a foot problem before it becomes a more serious problem. Patients are advised to inspect their feet daily for calluses, cuts, blisters, sores, redness, or swelling. Diabetic patients are strongly advised to inspect their feet for these findings each evening. The inspection should including the top of the foot, between the toes, and bottom of the foot. If seeing the bottom of the foot is difficult, a mirror can be placed the floor to help visualize this part of the foot. If any of those findings are seen during your inspection, it is advised to contact our clinic immediately, as early treatment of a problem is much easier to treat and resolve. We also educate our diabetic patients to inspect their feet for the 5 cardinal signs of infection including redness, pain, increased skin temperature, swelling, and loss of function of the part of the foot.
Next let’s discuss proper shoes for diabetic patients. It is strongly advised that diabetic patients NOT walk barefoot. Shoes can help protect the foot from an injury from a foreign body or puncture wound. One common complication associated with diabetes is neuropathy (or numbness in the feet). Therefore, while stepping on a foreign object typically will cause significant pain, the diabetic foot might not feel the pain. This can allow an infection to develop more easily and further complications. Also diabetic shoes specifically designed for the diabetic foot can help avoid complication such as wounds and calluses on the foot. Diabetic shoes are specifically designed with special inserts to help avoid pressure points and sores/blisters on the foot.
Diabetics also need to be cautious when exposing their foot to hot or cold temperatures. Another complication of peripheral neuropathy is that the foot is unable to differentiate between hot and cold temperatures. Therefore, the foot can become prone to temperature related injuries such as frostbite or burns. Patients with diabetes need to be aware of the temperatures their feet are exposed to.
Remember that the potential foot related complications associated with diabetes are avoidable with proper preventative care.