As we noted in our previous post, we’re now in National Diabetes Month (November). We also discussed systemic problems from the disease—impaired nervous, immune, and circulatory systems—that can lead to serious issues in your lower limbs. Today, let’s discuss what you can do to keep your feet safe when you have diabetes.
To start, we should take a quick look at two concerning complications caused by the disease – Charcot foot and diabetic foot ulcers.
Charcot foot is severe foot deformity caused, in part, by weakened bones. In this condition, the bones are weakened to the point they break easily – even by simply walking. Now, you might think “I would know if I was breaking bones when I walked,” but severe neuropathy (nerve damage) takes away your ability to feel it and recognize the damage being done.
Since you don’t actually feel anything, you will continue walking like you normally would. The cycle continues until the foot is severely misshapen and potentially needs to be amputated.
In the case of diabetic foot ulcers, the significant nerve damage also comes into play (which means the two issues can exist concurrently!).
Essentially, ulceration happens when wounds—either of internal or external origin—do not heal. This makes your body vulnerable to dangerous infections. Since your circulatory and immune systems are also compromised, the body cannot fight against the infections as it normally should.
Diabetic foot ulcers can become gangrenous and necessitate limb amputation. Even worse, it puts your life in danger. These ulcers have a higher mortality rate than even several cancers, including breast, colon, and prostate cancers.
Clearly, diabetes can have a profound negative effect on your feet!
Fortunately, there are measures you can take to reduce your risk of ending up with an emergency (and potentially life-threatening) situation. These include:
- Manage glucose levels. No matter which facet of your healthy we are talking about (foot health or otherwise), you simply must manage your glucose levels. This entails careful monitoring and following doctor’s orders with regards to dietary habits. Keep in mind that eating a “diabetes-smart” diet is a wise practice for even those who don’t have diabetes!
- Wear proper diabetic footwear. Shoe and sock choices have a certain degree of importance for non-diabetic individuals, but that importance is significantly ramped up for those living with this disease. Our doctors can help direct you with regards to specific types of footwear—and may even prescribe custom orthotics to protect your lower limbs—that are best for your unique feet.
Two more thoughts about footwear related to diabetes – 1) You should always wear shoes (even in the house) to protect your feet from sustaining even tiny cuts or scrapes. Minor damage can escalate into major complications with diabetes. 2) Always inspect the insides of your socks and shoes before putting them on. Any foreign object, even if small, can potentially damage to your foot.
- Check feet every day. A daily foot inspection is essential for catching problems at their earliest, most treatable stages. Our team will be glad to provide guidelines on how to best do this, including various problems you need to be checking for.
- Care for your skin. Skin that is too wet can become a problem, but so too can skin that is too dry. Wetness weakens the skin (which can open the door for potential contaminants) and increases your risk for blisters. Dryness causes calluses and cracking. Both are bad news, but our team can help you strike the right balance!
- Don’t clip, cut, perform “bathroom surgery,” or use wart removal kits. There are certainly parts of your diabetic foot care plan that are your responsibility. When it comes to things like clipping your toenails or trying to address an existing problem, the best course of action is to leave it to the professionals. Our doctors are highly-trained medical professionals who have lots of experience in helping patients just like you!