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Diabetic Foot Care: Learn How to Manage Foot Complications and Problems Caused by Diabetes

Why Must People with Diabetes Take Extra Care Of Their Feet?

Diabetes is a disease that affects millions of Americans, and unfortunately, up to one-third of the population is completely unaware they are affected. Often a diabetic complication, such as a diabetes foot problem, can become one of the first indicators of the illness.

Most experts agree monitoring blood glucose levels to prevent complications associated with diabetes is the most important step in treating the illness. In addition to monitoring blood sugar, taking care of your feet is a critical piece of overall good diabetes healthcare.

The bones and joints of the feet have a crucial job in evenly supporting your body. Blood circulation carries important food and oxygen to the bones and tissues of the foot. Over time, the increased blood sugar levels caused by diabetes affect the blood vessels and nerves in the feet – and lead to diabetes foot problems.

How Does Diabetes Does Affect the Feet?

Diabetes foot problems can be caused two ways:

  • Due to an abnormal increase in blood sugar found in the body, the foot can experience decreased sensitivity, resulting in nerve damage. This condition is called Diabetic Neuropathy.

  • A condition called Diabetic Vasculopathy, or hardening of the blood vessels, is another common diabetes foot problem. This condition results in the narrowing of blood vessels which reduces blood flow in the foot. Poor blood circulation in Diabetic Vasculopathy is often indicated by cold feet that appear blue or pale.

  • In addition, the skin and fatty tissue surrounding the foot and toes is an important barrier that prevents infections from entering the rest of the body. Since diabetes also makes your feet more susceptible to infections, it’s important to maintain proper everyday care of your feet.

    Hygiene & Diabetic Foot Creams Are Key to Avoiding Diabetes Foot Problems

    As the saying goes, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” This certainly applies to maintaining proper foot health, especially if you have diabetes. Daily washing with a mild detergent soap, especially between toes, as well as checking regularly for blisters, ulcers, inflammation or irregular skin growth is paramount to proper diabetes healthcare. The use of a hand mirror can help you inspect parts of your foot difficult to observe, especially if you have limited mobility.

    Should you feel a tingling sensation in your feet, or notice signs of severe redness, swelling or draining, you should contact your diabetes healthcare professional immediately. Remember, a doctor should be the one to treat any diabetes foot problems, including calluses, corns or bunions.

    Diabetic Complications Associated with Feet

    • Tingling in the feet
    • Lack of circulation resulting in cold, blue or damp feet
    • Redness, swelling, blisters or ulcers
    • Corns, calluses or bunions

    In addition, drying your feet completely, especially between your toes, will reduce the chance of harboring bacteria attracted to dark, damp environments. To smooth the cracked heels often encountered by people with diabetes, apply a diabetic foot cream. Experts also suggest dusting your feet with a non-medicated powderbefore putting on your socks because it keeps your feet dry and reduces friction.

    Another key to avoiding diabetes foot problems is keeping your toenails properly trimmed to the end of the toe. This reduces the chance of fungus growth. Using the appropriate nail care products, trim your nails straight across to reduce the likelihood of ingrown toenails. In addition, the use of an anti-fungal cream can prevent foot fungus and bacteria that lead to athlete’s foot.

    Tips for Diabetes Healthcare: Choosing Footwear

    Selecting proper footwear should not be overlooked. Choose socks that provide good ventilation, include bacteria-retardant fibers and do not bind or reduce circulation with exposed seams. Your sock should be ½-inch longer than your foot, so it prevents blisters and rubbing from your shoes. Wearing open-toe shoes or going barefoot is not recommended because it leaves your feet unprotected and at risk for possible injury.
    The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) recommends choosing shoes fitted not by the listed size, but by how they feel on your feet. They recommend a 3/8-inch to ½-inch space between the end of your shoe and the longest toe. They also recommend checking the width of your shoes. Narrow shoes can cause reduced circulation problems or potential ulcers on the foot.

    Doctors or podiatrists often prescribe special diabetic socks to prevent or treat diabetic complications of the feet. They may also recommend special shoes to provide support, improved circulation or cushioning to alleviate pressure or joint pain.

    Preventing Foot-Related Diabetic Complications with Exercise

    Proper hygiene and care of your feet is important. Keeping your blood circulation active is also helpful in maintaining diabetic foot care. Walking is a good form of daily exercise that increases circulation and can be done in virtually any setting. The use of a pedometer can help you track daily steps and monitor your excise routines.

    More involved physical activity can be moderate or vigorous, but should include both cardio and aerobic activities, as well as resistance, strength-building and weight-bearing activities. The Diabetes Exercise and Sports Association offers a multimedia library with videos on fitness basics to help people with diabetes overcome unique exercise challenges.

    Keeping a regular schedule of exercise is good idea for sticking to a health and fitness plan. Engaging in daily exercise and vigorous activity can also help prevent obesity, the greatest risk factor associated with Type 2 diabetes.

    Remember, the best way to prevent diabetes foot problems is to maintain proper foot health through daily checking of your feet, following good hygiene habits and selecting proper footwear and fit. Improving the circulation in your feet through routine exercise and fitness will also help prevent diabetic complications of the feet.


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