Take “Steps” to Protect Your Feet
Feet are the sort of body parts we don’t worry about until they start giving us trouble. However, if you are a person with diabetes or are caring for someone who is, it may be time to start thinking about feet. Why? Because people with diabetes, especially those on a renal diabetic diet are at a higher risk for nerve damage, circulation problems, and infections.
Nerve damage occurs when a person has had diabetes for a long time. It is more common in men than in women, and seems to occur more in people who’ve had problems controlling their blood sugar. If you have nerve damage, you may not notice when your feet are injured. Nerve damage can also cause feet to become misshapen, creating painful pressure points that can develop ulcers over time. Diabetes can cause blood vessels to become hard and narrow, leading to poor circulation. Injuries cannot heal when blood flow is blocked.
High blood sugar levels can make people with diabetes more prone to bacterial and fungal infections.
Combine these with even the tiniest cut or blister and you can have serious trouble. There will be over 50,000 foot and leg amputations this year caused by complications from diabetes. These conditions are largely preventable. You can avoid them by keeping your blood glucose under control, sticking to a good diet and exercise plan, and taking medicines exactly as your doctor tells you.
Signs of diabetes-related foot problems include feet that tingle, burn or hurt, are changing in shape, or have changes in color or temperature. You may lose hair on your feet, toes and lower legs, or you may notice a loss of sensation to touch or temperature. Also watch for dry cracked skins, sores that aren’t healing, ulcers, and fungal infections between your toes and on your toenails. If you currently have or have a history of any of these symptoms, see your physician or podiatrist immediately!
It could save your feet.
People at high risk for foot problems need to have their feet examined by a doctor AT LEAST four times a year. To help your physician remember, take off your shoes and socks in the examining room. He will check for loss of feeling, pulses (circulation), and look carefully for tiny injuries or irritated places.
You’ll also need to do a home foot inspection each day. You (or a family member or friend if you can’t see well) should check your entire foot – top, bottom, back, sides and in between your toes. If you have trouble bending over to see all angles of your feet, use an unbreakable mirror. Look for any injuries such as sores, cuts, cracked skin, or bruises, no matter how minor they may seem. Check the color and temperature of your feet. Do any areas seem swollen, red, or callused? Do you notice any changes in the shape of your feet? Look out for foot fungus, nail fungus, and ingrown toenails. If you see anything wrong, contact your doctor or other healthcare provider immediately. It’s important to seek help quickly in order to lessen your risk of getting a foot ulcer.
Take good care of your feet! Wash them every day, then make sure they are carefully dried. It is especially important to dry the area between your toes. Air doesn’t circulate very well down there, and any excess moisture could cause infection.
Don’t soak your feet- it can lead to dry skin. You may need to use a moisturizing cream or lotion after washing to keep feet from becoming dry and chapped. Ask your doctor to recommend a brand. Remember not to put any cream or lotion between your toes.
Use extra caution when you trim your toenails. Toenails will be softest and easiest to cut right after you’ve washed and dried your feet. Follow the natural curve of your nails with out cutting into the corners, then go over any rough edges with an emery board. Your healthcare provider can demonstrate the proper method to you. She can also refer you to a foot specialist if you need help taking care of your nails. If you’re having vision problems, can’t comfortable reach your feet, or have yellow, thickened toenails, it’s best to let your doctor or podiatrist handle the pedicures.
You should definitely avoid cutting corns and calluses, or using any form of chemical corn remover. Take them to the doctor. He can show you how to gently smooth them with a pumice stone, if this is appropriate. If you do get a blister, do not rupture it. See your doctor.
Extremes of temperature can be dangerous. Use a thermometer instead of your toes to test bathwater. Around 90-95 degrees is safe. Or, use your elbow. Wear protective shoes around the pool and at the beach (or anytime you walk on hot concrete). If your feet gets cold in the winter, try insulated socks and slippers. Stay away from electric blankets and heating pads.
Never, ever go barefoot. Proper shoes, socks or stockings are your first line of defense against foot injury. You should even wear shoes indoors. When buying shoes, avoid plastic uppers, skimpy sandals (especially those with a thong between the toes), and shoes that don’t feel comfortable the first time you try them on. You’ll need good arch support. If you have corns or calluses, buy shoes that are wide and deep enough to accommodate them. The best time to go shoe shopping is at the end of the day, when your feet are at their most swollen. When you buy new shoes, wear them for only few hours each day at first, checking for problems as you go.
Socks made of cotton or wool tend to be most absorbent and comfortable. Wearing white socks can help you inspect your feet for injury. When you take off your socks, check them carefully for any blood or discharge.
Your doctor or other healthcare provider can recommend the best types of shoes for you. You may need to be fitted for custom-molded shoes, especially if you’ve had previous foot ulcers or if the shape of your foot has been deformed.
Before putting on shoes, look and feel inside them. You’re looking for foreign objects and rough places inside the shoe. These could cause serious injury if you walk around all day without feeling them.
Finally, physical exercise plays an important role in improving circulation to the feet and lower extremities. You’ll want to work with your healthcare team on this. They can teach you ways to exercise your feet safely and efficiently, even if you are unable to walk. It’s especially important when you’re on a renal diabetic diet.
Pay attention to your feet, and treat them well. Remember to keep feet clean and dry, check for problems every day, and protect them from the elements with good shoes, socks and your own common sense. Always consult with your doctor at the first sign of any problems, or if you have questions. After all, you only get one pair!