With diabetes reaching almost epidemic proportions in the USA, chances are you know someone who is affected by it. If you have it yourself, you know how it changes your life. One way is the finger pricks you need to do daily to monitor your blood glucose level. Another is how it can alter your concept of food and eating. You think more about what you eat, because if you can effectively control your sugar levels with diet, you won’t need to use as much medication. We want to focus on how having this disease can also change the way you regard your feet and legs. You may not have realized before how important taking care of them is to your overall health.
Foot Care Inside and Out
Caring for your lower limbs includes promoting their health internally and externally. On the inside, you want to keep your circulation and nervous systems as healthy as possible. That means keeping your blood sugar levels under strict control. Too much blood sugar can damage the blood vessel walls. Plaque can build up, constricting the flow (peripheral vascular disease, or PAD). This lessens the amount of oxygen and nutrients that reach your nerves, so they can be damaged as well (diabetic or peripheral neuropathy). Keeping your sugar level steady helps prevent these conditions from developing, thus avoiding symptoms like numbness, tingling, slow healing of wounds, and pain in your feet and legs.
Good diabetic foot care also helps prevent a host of other problems on the outside of your extremities—or keeps them from becoming serious. With this disease, you are more prone to many common foot conditions such as athlete’s foot and fungal toenails; corns, calluses and warts; blisters and ingrown toenails; bunions and hammertoes; and dry skin problems.
The most serious threat to the health of your limbs is an open sore. Because of nerve damage, you may not realize you are hurt, and because of poor circulation, it may take longer to heal and become an ulcer. Infection can set in, and in some cases it may lead to gangrene and the need for amputation. The goal of diabetic foot care is to not let these serious conditions develop.
Hints That Help Keep Feet Healthy
There are several things you should do to your feet every day if you have diabetes:
- Wash them in warm water and mild soap, and dry them thoroughly
- Rub moisturizer into your skin to keep it supple and soft
- Check them carefully all over, looking for red areas, blisters, cuts or sores, swelling, or changes in color or temperature of your skin.
- Wear socks and shoes to protect your feet from injury. Make sure they don’t rub or pinch.
- Keep them moving to increase circulation. Sit with your feet up, wiggle your toes and ankles.
- Keep them away from heat, like the sun, hot sidewalks, hot water, heating pads, etc.
You should also eat healthy foods to get the nutrients needed for cell growth and repair, and follow a safe exercise regimen that gives your heart and lungs a workout. This will benefit you from head to toe.
When to Call Us
When you have diabetes, you should get help for treating things like corns and calluses, ingrown toenails, deeply cracked skin, and open sores, rather than trying to do so yourself. The risk of infection is just too great. Even if you don’t have these issues or experience swelling or pain in your extremities, it is important to come in to Southern Oregon Foot & Ankle, L.L.C. for regular foot checks with Dr. Evan Merrill. Catching a problem in its early stages gives the best chance for avoiding serious issues and healing completely. Call us in Ashland, Oregon at (541) 776-3338 to set up an appointment whenever you are concerned about your feet.
Photo Credit: David Castillo Dominici via FreeDigitalPhotos.net