Diabetes and Your Feet How Are They Related
It is extremely dangerous for people with diabetes to have in their blood high levels of glucose (sugar). Should this condition persist for a long time, the diabetic person runs the risk of developing serious complications and that can include foot problems.
Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes can damage peripheral nerves and blood vessels. These can lead to leg and feet problems. Diabetic Neuropathy and Peripheral Vascular Disease are conditions that can cause damage to a diabetic’s feet because of high levels of blood sugar. Diabetics increase the risk of having foot problems because of these conditions.
If you have uncontrolled diabetes, your nerves can be damaged. If your feet and legs have damaged nerves, it will lose its sense of feel. When this happens, you may not fell pain, cold or heat on your feet.
This condition is called sensory diabetic neuropathy. If because of Neuropathy, you are unable to feel a sore or a cut on your foot, that cut could worsen and get infected.
This will cause the muscle in your feet not to properly function because the nerves that make them do have been damaged. This would result in the misalignment of your foot and create pressure on the unaffected area. Foot ulcer is one of the results of diabetic neuropathy.
Peripheral Vascular Disease
Diabetes reduces the flow of blood in your feet. With poor blood circulation in your feet, it can be difficult for a cut or a sore to heal. There will be times when an infection will never heal at all and might become gangrene.
Gangrene is caused by insufficient blood flow to the tissues resulting in cell death. Insufficient blood flow in the legs and arms is referred to as Peripheral Vascular Disease. This circulation disease hits blood vessels that are far from the heart.
Common Foot Problems of Diabetics
These foot problems can affect anybody. However, for diabetics, these foot problems, no matter how small, may develop severe complications that may result in serious infections and even amputation.Diabetics are always at the risk of developing numerous foot problems.
Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection characterized by redness, itchiness and cracking. The cracks in your skin can cause germs to enter causing an infection. Medication is needed because the fungus needs to be killed. Medication can be in the form or pills, or topical creams directly applied to the affected area.
Anyone can develop athlete’s foot but it is a serious foot problem for diabetics. Weak circulatory and immune systems are natural for diabetics. These can make them prone to infections. Developing athlete’s foot is a major problem for diabetics because their skin does not have enough hydration. If untreated, athlete’s foot can cause a major bacterial infection to diabetics.
Fungal Nail Infection
Nails with fungal infection appear discolored. Nails will look opaque or yellowish-brown. The infected part of the nail will appear brittle and thick and will separate from the other parts of the nail. In extreme cases, the nail may crumble. The warm, moist, dark environment of closed shoes is the main culprit of fungus growth. Nail fungal infection can also be caused by a prior nail injury.
There are medications that can directly be applied to the affected part of the nail but are only effective for certain types of fungal nail infections. Your doctor may prescribe some pills to treat the problem. In some cases, the nail tissue that has been damaged may need to be removed through surgery.
Healthy people consider fungal nail infection as a mere cosmetic problem. For a diabetic, fungal nail infection, if left untreated, can lead to diabetic foot ulcers, gangrene or other serious foot disorders that can result to amputation.
A callus is hard skin found at the bottom of the foot. Calluses result when weight is unevenly distributed, mostly on the heel or front part of the foot. Wearing tight shoes can also cause calluses. To a certain extent, a callus in the sole of the feet is a normal occurrence. Nevertheless, proper care is necessary:
- After a shower, use a pumice to rub the callus.
- Line your shoes with insoles or pads.
- Take medication (doctor prescribes) for calluses to soften.
- Never attempt to remove calluses with a razor or scissors.
A callus, in reality, protects the skin from friction or pressure that could result in an open wound. However, for diabetics, a callus may be covering a deep wound. A callus can impede the healing of the deep wound which can cause ulceration.
A corn is hard skin that builds up between the toes or near the bony part of a toe. Corns are caused by friction or pressure when your shoes heavily rub against your toes. Just like calluses, corns need proper care.
- After taking a shower, carefully removed the tissue build-up using a pumice.
- Never attempt to use over-the-counter creams to treat corns.
- Avoid trying to remove or cut the corn using a sharp object.
For someone with Diabetic Neuropathy, it can be difficult to tell when corn is caused only by ill-fitting shoes. Diabetics should immediately see a doctor when a corn is starting to develop. It needs to be treated properly or it may lead to ulcers.
Blisters form as a result of your shoes rubbing on the same area of your foot. You are prone to have blisterswhen you wear shoes without socks or when you wear ill-fitting shoes. Blisters are covered by a skin that protects it from infection. Never attempt to pop blisters, instead use a topical cream and clean bandages to prevent infections.
While blisters often tend to heal on its own, for diabetics, a small blister can develop into ulcers when not treated properly. It may even lead to amputation.
This is a deformity that affects the second, third and fourth toe. It is characterized by the bending of the middle joint which looks like a hammer. In its early stages, a hammertoe can be easily corrected. If left untreated, it can be permanent and may need surgery to be corrected.
People with hammertoes are prone to have calluses and corns on the tip of the toes and in the toe’s middle joint. This is what will pose threats to diabetics. It is difficult to find comfortable shoes when you have hammertoe.
You have an ingrown toe nail when the tip of your nail grows toward your toe’ skin. Poorly trimmed toe nails and ill-fitting shoes are the major causes of ingrown toenails. The affected toenail may turn red and may be infected. It is often tempting to do self-help with ingrown toenails.
However, if you are a diabetic, it is better treated by a doctor. Diabetics are at higher risk of developing severe infections that can spread to the different parts of the foot.
A person has foot ulcer when the underlying tissue of the skin is exposed. For a healthy person, a simple cut in the skin usually quickly heals on its own. However, in diabetics, a simple wound in the feet does not completely heal and is most likely to become foot ulcer.
For healthy persons, foot ulcers respond quickly to treatment. Again, for diabetics, foot ulcers have longer healing times (if ever it does) because of poor blood circulation. Diabetics are also prone to infections and this can severely affect foot ulcer. Foot ulcers are common to diabetics because of Diabetic Neuropathy (nerve damage) and Peripheral Vascular Disease (poor blood circulation).
The right foot care is important for diabetics. Keeping your feet in good shape will lessen the risk of developing foot problems. Foot problems for diabetes patients take time to heal or do not heal at all. Taking care of your feet can range from doing self-exams to regular trips to the doctor. These routine will not only keep your feet in good shape but will also detect a foot problem before it gets complicated to treat.
Foot care for diabetics needs to be a routine and a habit. Other than just regularly checking on your feet, there are a lot more of things you need to do. Prevention is always better than cure. Problem is for some diabetics, cure is not part of the equation.
1. A Healthy Lifestyle for a Healthy Feet
A healthy lifestyle is essential to good foot care. Make sure to regularly monitor your blood sugar levels. This will guide you in what to do should levels be lower or higher than normal. Regular exercise will keep you fit and healthy. A healthy body is important to contain diabetes. Having a well-balanced diet containing lots of vegetables and fruits will greatly help to keep healthy.
2. Keep Your Feet Healthy
Maintain healthy habits for your feet. These things may not be important to non-diabetics but for a diabetic, keeping your feet healthy may keep your feet safe from amputation. As a general rule, avoid using any type of antiseptics, heating pads electric blankets or hot water bottles on your feet without first consulting a doctor. These can burn skins and this is deadly for diabetics. Always make sure to keep your feet protected from too much cold and heat.
Avoid treating any foot lesion (calluses, corns or warts) on your own. Never use razor blades or scissors to remove them. Always see a doctor for any lesions that may appear in your feet. Avoid keeping your legs crossed or standing in only one position for extended periods of time. These may strain your feet and corns, bullions or calluses may develop. Avoid walking barefoot on hot payments and even on the beach. You will never know when a cut will develop and this is dangerous to diabetics.
3. Take Care of Your Toenails
Before having your toenails trimmed, either by yourself or in a salon, consult your doctor first. He should be able to tell you if it is safe. He can also show you the right way of doing it. Incorrect trimming of toenails can cause an ingrown toenail. Here are some safe ways to take care of your toenails.
- Wash your feet before trimming your nails so they are soft.
- Avoid trimming your nails into a curve. This will most likely cause an ingrown.
- Never cut the corners of your toenails. Smoothen the edges with an emery board.
- Should you notice any discoloration in your toe nails, immediately see a doctor.
4. Wear the Right Socks and Shoes
Wearing the right kind of socks and shoes will protect your feet from developing deadly cuts and lesions. Always make sure to buy shoes that perfectly fit and are comfortable. . There should be enough room in the toe box to avoid a blister, callus or a corn. Avoid plastic shoes or shoe materials that will not allow your feet to breathe. Leather, canvas or suede are better shoe materials for a diabetic. Although they make look sexy and cool, diabetics should avoid wearing extremely high heeled, open toe and pointed shoes. Flip flops and thong sandals should as much as possible also be avoided.
If you have been diagnosed with nerve damage, allow your feet to breathe every once in a while. Change your shoes every at least 6 hours to shift pressure points in your feet.
Socks provide extra protection between your shoes and feet. Always wear dry and clean socks or pantyhose. Avoid socks and pantyhose that have seams that can cause pressure points on your toes. This will make you develop blisters, corns or bunion.
5. Have a Daily Foot Care Routine
Make it a habit to have a daily foot care. Start off with washing your feet with a mild soap and lukewarm water. Strong and harsh soaps may damage your skin and cause a lesion. Do an elbow check on the water to make sure it is comfortably warm. This will prevent burns. After washing, dry your feet thoroughly and gently especially on areas between the toes. Apply petroleum jelly or lotion on your feet except on the areas between your toes. Doing so may cause lesions to develop when friction gets into contact with dried lotion.
If you should use a pumice, do so with utmost care and only after you have taken a shower or washed your feet – when skin on your feet is soft.
It is not easy to be a diabetic. There are certain circumstances that non-diabetics take for granted or neglect but can cause severe problems when a diabetic does the same. Taking care of the feet is one of those things. The feet is the most abused apart part of the body. It is part of good hygiene to take care of the feet. Extra effort must be taken though by diabetics.