By Courtney Thenn, DPM
Proper foot care is important all year round, especially for diabetic patients. But during the warmer months when most people wear sandals, diabetic patients may be even more aware of their feet and their condition. That’s why summer is a great time to review self-care.
If you have diabetes, your feet are prime candidates for several diabetes-related problems because of two complications that often show up in the feet. The first complication is poor circulation, which is the result of blood vessels that have been damaged by diabetes. The second complication is neuropathy, which results from damaged nerves.
Poor circulation can lead to undesirable outcomes, such as difficulty healing a wound and inability to fight infection. As many diabetic patients know, a tiny cut can turn into a big problem without proper medical treatment.
The potential signs of poor circulation are cramping in the legs or feet, cuts or other injuries that take longer to heal, and changes in color in the toes or feet. Because poor circulation and poor healing can turn the tiniest problem into something serious, you will want to address these types of problems with a medical professional right away.
Neuropathy, or nerve damage, causes loss of feeling in your feet. It takes away your ability to feel pain or discomfort, which means you may not be able to detect an irritation or injury to your foot. That’s obviously dangerous if you have poor circulation, because an unnoticed — and untreated — foot injury in individuals with diabetes often results in poor healing.
Patients living with diabetes need to do all they can to maintain foot health and prevent problems. One way to do this is through proper self-care. The following lists offer ways that patients can be proactive when it comes to caring for their feet.
- Check blood glucose regularly.
- Check your feet daily. Inspect for any cuts, blisters, redness, new swelling, or nail problems.
- Dry your feet well between toes after bathing.
- Keep your feet warm and dry. Consider wearing socks to bed.
- Wear properly fitting shoes and socks.
- Shake out your shoes before wearing them to avoid accidental injury due to something in your shoes that you did not feel.
- Moisturize your feet — but NOT between your toes — because this could promote a fungal infection.
- Get periodic exams with your foot doctor. It is recommended that patients have their feet examined by a doctor every 3 to 6 months.
- Ignore any new pain, swelling, or area of irritation.
- Ignore a sore on your foot.
- Use over-the-counter medicated corn pads. The chemicals in these can be harsh on good skin, and neuropathy makes it challenging to notice if a problem is arising.
- Walk around barefoot.
- Go without socks when wearing shoes.
- Soak feet in HOT water or walk on HOT sand or other HOT surfaces (asphalt). You may experience burns.
- Expose your feet to COLD weather for extended periods of time.
- Smoke, because smoking negatively affects circulation.
Paying close attention to the health of your feet year-round will help improve your well-being.
Mercy Health is pleased to announce comprehensive Podiatry Services in two convenient locations in Grand Rapids. So, whether you suffer from foot or ankle pain due to poor circulation or neuropathy; toenail conditions; bunions, hammertoes or flatfeet; or are looking for wound care; fracture or injury care; or custom orthotics, Mercy Health is ready to provide remarkable care. For more information, call 616-685-1200.