The holidays are here, and we’re guessing you will spend at least some time today rushing around in search of a last-minute gift for someone special in your life. But, we have to ask: what about you? Have you taken time to care for yourself? We’re guessing the answer is, “No, I don’t have the time,” but that’s a big mistake. Especially if you are living with diabetes.
In this country, over 30 people have diabetes. And statistics suggest that over 7 million people aren’t even aware they have this disease. That’s where major problems can arise. If your diabetes isn’t in control, you run the risk of damaging your internal organs and limbs. In many cases, uncontrolled diabetes leads to limb loss—in fact, many diabetics end up losing their feet to this disease. That’s why we want you to take time out this busy holiday season and give yourself the gift of proper diabetic foot. Establishing a good home foot-care routine should move to the top spot on your to-do list. Here’s why.
Why Does Diabetes Hurt My Feet?
If you have diabetes, it means your body is unable to make or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that your pancreas makes. Its job is to allow your body to turn the sugar from the carbohydrates you eat into energy. So, when you don’t make insulin, or can’t process it properly, your body has a hard time maintaining or controlling your blood sugar levels. Because your blood circulates throughout your entire body, this disease can cause many other complications, including heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputations. And, while some of these complications are less common, foot infections and ulcers are the top reason diabetics in this country get hospitalized.
Of course, infections aren’t the only foot problem diabetics may face. While ulcers (open wounds that are hard to heal are the most common diabetes-related foot problem, diabetics may also be dealing with neuropathy (pain, tingling or numbness in the feet) due to nerve damage. Of course, the diabetic nerve damage associated with neuropathy could mean that you might have already developed a limb-threatening ulcer and not even know about it! Which takes you right back on the path to hospitalization and amputation.
Those are scary facts to consider, but here’s the good news: most diabetic foot infections can be easily prevented! In fact, becomes infected regular care from your podiatrist, plus some smart at-home interventions, can reduce diabetic amputation rates by up to 80 percent, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association. So, keep reading for our top tips on preventative diabetic foot care! It’s the best gift you could give your feet—and your overall health—this holiday season.
10 Easy Steps to Protecting Diabetic Feet
- Maintain your diabetic blood sugar levels. Staying in control of your diabetes is the first—and best—way to protect your feet from complications. As soon as you are diagnosed, set up your diabetic care team: it should include your primary care physician, endocrinologist, podiatrist, ophthalmologist and dentist.
- Inspect your feet daily, checking every spot (including soles, heel and in between toes) for any signs of problems, including irritation, redness, cracked or dry skin. You should also check for changes in skin color, blisters, or any sign, like blood or fluid, that you’ve sustained a cut or other injury. If you can’t see every spot on your foot, use a mirror or ask a friend or loved one for some help.
- Never go barefoot. Make sure you protect your feet with proper footwear, even when you’re home and relaxing. You should also ensure that your socks and shoes all fit properly and are comfortable, to avoid rubbing or irritation that could turn into problems down the road. Look for thick, soft socks, without seams, and get measured and fitted every time you buy new shoes. Your foot size and shape can change over time.
- Make the right cut. When trimming your toenails, go straight across. And never, ever, EVER, cut your cuticles. If you suspect that you’re developing an in-grown toenail, get in to see your podiatrist right away.
- Don’t self-treat. While people without diabetes can take advantage of over-the-counter foot remedies, diabetics should never try to treat calluses, corns or warts at home. You could end up burning your skin and causing irreversible damage. Just go see your podiatrist instead.
- Get more exercise. Even something as simple as walking can help you boost your circulation and maintain a healthy weight. Just select proper athletic footwear and clear any new fitness routine with your diabetic care team.
- Eat better. Be careful about your food intake. Plan your weekly diabetic menus and keep a food journal to help you stay on track.
- Live for props. Try keeping your feet elevated when you sit.
- Embrace the rule of 5. All through your day, start wiggling your toes and moving your feet and ankles up and down. Aim for at least five, five-minute sessions each and every day. But more is even better.
- Stay vigilant. Visit your podiatrist at least twice a year to avoid foot complications. But get into the office sooner if you notice any problems or irritations.