When you suffer from diabetes, the disease can take a toll on your feet. But why are your feet so impacted? And how can you prevent complications with your shoes and a quality diabetic foot check? Keep reading to find out!
How Diabetes Hurts Your Feet
When you have diabetes, your blood sugar levels may rise to high levels—especially if your disease is not yet well controlled. At that point, you may develop a variety of problems that affect your diabetic feet, including:
1. Diabetic Neuropathy...
a form of nerve damage that both reduces your ability to feel pain or changes in temperature, while also causing numbness and tingling in your feet and toes. If you have neuropathy, you may not feel a blister forming, or notice a minor cut or scrape. And that can be a problem, as it could become infected and cause an ulcer to form.
Additionally, when you have neuropathy, the shape of your foot may change—we call this a deformity. For that reason, wearing your standard shoes may be difficult and uncomfortable, so you may be safest wearing special diabetic shoes. (More about that in a minute.)
2. Reduced Circulation
Diabetes won’t just attack your nerves; the disease can also go after blood vessels in your feet and legs, hardening and narrowing them. Right away, that causes less blood to reach your feet. And, once that happens, your feet may feel cold, and it also becomes harder for them to heal cuts or infections. Once again, this increases your risk for a non-healing foot ulcer.
Delayed healing of wounds also leaves your feet more vulnerable to infections, even from something as simple as dry or cracked skin on your feet. Luckily, a daily diabetic foot check can help you detect small problems before they become big ones. And that’s crucial if you want to prevent the final foot risk facing patients with diabetes…
In this country, more than 50% of foot and leg amputations are related to diabetes. Typically, amputation becomes necessary when an ulcer is so deep that it simply can’t be healed. Or, when an infection in the foot spreads to your bone, necessitating an amputation to prevent further spread. Fortunately, at our podiatry practice in Medford, OR, we offer preventative foot care for diabetics that protects our patients from reaching such a dire situation. And, in many cases, preventing amputations is as simple as changing up your shoes and carefully inspecting your feet. Every single day.
Preventative Diabetic Foot Care: Daily Foot Checks and Special Shoe Requests
Dr. Devin Dimond and Dr. Evan Merrill, our podiatrists in Southern Oregon, would rather engage in preventative care than try to save your feet after a devastating ulcer forms. To that end, we offer two recommendations to all our patients with diabetes: change your shoes. And perform a daily diabetic foot check. This is why.
Why do diabetics need prescription shoes?
Another side effect of diabetes is that your feet become more sensitive to pressure. Why is that the case? When external pressure builds up on your feet, your reduced healing prevents your body from protecting itself. Worse, because of reduced sensation in your feet, you may be unaware of pain or pressure on your feet, even if the skin breaks down and a wound starts to form.
Now, pressure can come from many different sources. But a big one is from ill-fitting foot wear. And, as we mentioned earlier, diabetes can cause changes in your foot shape, making it even harder to find a shoe with a proper fit. Luckily, when you choose a special diabetic shoe, you’ll enjoy extra depth, keeping lots of pressure off your feet—especially around the toes.
Plus, the shoes come with insoles that keep pressure away from the bottom of your foot. This protects you from calluses. And, since calluses can break down into ulcers, this is a very important way to protect your diabetic feet.
Best of all, because diabetic shoes are so important for your diabetic foot health, many insurance carriers—including Medicare—will cover their cost. However, shoes alone can’t protect your feet completely. So, for that reason, we need your help: you’ll have to inspect your feet daily. Here’s what to look for.
How to Perform a Daily Diabetic Foot Check
As part of your diabetic care team, your podiatrists in Oregon should see you in the office at least once a quarter for a comprehensive foot exam. But, in between those visits, you still need to examine your feet every single day. Now, the routine won’t take long—although you may need the help of a partner or a mirror to check hard-to-see spots like the soles of your feet. But, it might be the most important move you can make to protect yourself from an amputation.
Start by setting aside a specific time to conduct your diabetic foot check. (Many of our patients like to do this at night, right before bed.) Now, be sure to examine your entire foot, including their bottoms, tops and the spaces between the toes. At the most basic level, you should look for any changes to the skin’s appearance. More specifically, you can look out for:
• Areas of redness
• An object that’s sticking out of the foot skin
• A hole in the foot
Diabetic Foot Check: What To Do When You Spot Changes
If you notice any changes to the appearance of your feet—especially one of the bulleted changes we highlighted above—you need to contact the office right away. When you call us or fill out our contact form, you need to let us know immediately that you have diabetes and detected a problem during your daily foot check. This will let us know that you need to come in right away, so we’ll get you in for the earliest possible appointment. Once we’re together, we’ll address the current concern and get you back on track to prevent more serious complications.