Over time, diabetes can cause neuropathy (nerve damage), and vascular disease (poor circulation).
Neuropathy causes numbness and loss of feeling in the feet, which means that wounds to the feet often go un-noticed.
Vascular disease significantly slows down the healing process, making the prompt and thorough treatment of even small cuts and scratches imperative.
If left un-monitored, it’s easy to see how these 2 conditions can work hand in hand to seriously threaten the health of your feet – wounds to the feet go un-noticed and un-treated, they become infected and eventually turn into ulcers that are serious enough in some cases, to warrant amputation.
At Healthy Steps Podiatry, we work alongside primary health organisations and doctors to assess, treat and monitor our patients’ feet. If you suffer from diabetes, regular podiatry foot checks are vital – and the older you get, the more regular those check-ups need to become. There are, however, things that you need to be vigilant about doing on a daily basis to ensure that your feet stay healthy.
1. Check your feet every day for cuts, sores, red spots, swelling, and infected toenails. If you have trouble bending over to see your feet, use a mirror to help. You can also ask a family member or caregiver to help you.
2. Wash your feet daily in warm, not hot, water, and use use talcum powder or cornstarch to keep the skin between your toes dry to prevent fungal or other bacterial infections.
3. Keep the skin soft and smooth by rubbing a thin coat of lotion, cream, or petroleum jelly on the tops and bottoms of your feet.
4. If you can see, reach, and feel your feet, trim your toenails regularly with nail clippers – the best time to do this is after you have washed them. Trim them straight across, and smooth the corners with an emery board or nail file – this will prevent the nails from growing into the skin. Never cut into the corners of the toenail.
Have a foot doctor trim your toenails if:
- you cannot see or feel your feet
- you cannot reach your feet
- your toenails are thick or yellowed
- your nails curve and grow into the skin
If corns or calluses have developed on your feet, ask you podiatrist to remove them – don’t try and remove them yourself.
5. Wear shoes and socks at all times. If you go barefoot you risk stubbing your toes or injuring your feet by stepping on sharp objects, and if you suffer from neuropathy – the injury may go un-noticed. Socks are important to help prevent blisters from developing, and remember to always check your shoes before putting them on – make sure the lining is smooth and that there are no small objects in them.
6. Always wear shoes at the beach and on hot pavements and keep your feet away from open fires, heaters, hot water bottles and heating pads – you may burn your feet without realising it. Always apply sunblock to the tops of your feet to prevent sunburn.
7. Promote better circulation with regular foot and toe exercises; avoid sitting cross-legged for long periods of time, avoid tight socks, put your feet up when you are sitting, and if you smoke – try to quit. (Quitline 0800 778 778). Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and being active will also promote better circulation.
8. Wearing the right type of shoes is important when it comes to keeping diabetic feet healthy. Walking and athletic shoes are best for daily wear as they provide good support your feet and allow them to “breathe.” Avoid shoes with pointed toes or high heels, and buy shoes at the end of the day when your feet are at their largest so that you ensure the best fit.
9. Work with your health care team to make a plan to manage your diabetes – ask your health care team to help you set and reach goals for managing your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol, and to help you choose safe ways to be more active each day.