Too much sugar in the blood can lead to detrimental health issues. Diabetes is one of the most common diseases in the world; ranked the seventh deadliest disease globally by the World Health Organization in May 2018. Among the many chronic complications of diabetes is diabetic neuropathy. This means that people with diabetes suffer from damaged nerves caused by the disease.
Diabetic neuropathy may be excruciating and affects 60-70% of people with type 1 and 2 diabetes. It can cause issues like heart attacks, digestive problems, foot ulcers that might lead to amputations, and make it difficult to recognize low blood sugar episodes, which can lead to sight damage or loss, and have the potential even to be fatal.
The tiniest blister, insect bite, or other foot sore may put a diabetic in danger. The risk of infection is enormous when you can’t feel what’s happening! Even more frightening is the possibility of a serious infection that leads to necessary amputation. This is why diabetes experts urge individuals with type 1 or type 2 diabetes to protect their feet. Diabetics should inspect their feet daily and always wear appropriate protection in the form of proper socks and shoes to prevent blisters, bites, and scratches. Yearly foot exams by your healthcare team are also highly recommended.
Perform a routine daily check for the following:
- blisters, cuts, sores, and other irritations from walking (or any activity that results in the constant rubbing of the skin on your feet)
- do your feet feel hot or cold to the touch?
- dry, cracked skin
- pain, swelling or any other indications of infection
- skin discolorations
- rashes or signs of fungal infection such as athletes foot
- corns and calluses
If you observe any of these, inform your healthcare team at Sunshine immediately. The sooner they are addressed, the better equipped you will be to avoid infection, preventing your condition from getting any worse.
How to Care for Your Feet and Toenails
1. Wash your feet with lukewarm water, not hot water, to ensure you don’t accidentally burn yourself. Remember, burns cause blisters, and broken blisters might get infected and end up a source of agony.
2. Dry your feet gently, focusing in between your toes. Dry feet are a less attractive home for growing bacteria, which could lead to an infection like athlete’s foot. Yuck.
3. Regularly trim your nails straight across, then file the edges gently to avoid cuts and scrapes. NEVER round the corners – that can lead to ingrown nails, which can become infected. If you cannot reach your toes, ask someone for help and advise them how to safely do so, if necessary.
4. Corns and calluses may be trimmed by your doctor or foot-care specialist to avoid any accidental injuries. With the diminished sensation caused by neuropathy, at least you are less likely to be tickled during the process!
Choose the Right Shoes and Socks
Choose your shoes wisely. Avoid any open-toed shoes, high heels, sandals, and even going barefoot (sockless). Shoes that are comfortable and fit well with dry socks will help keep your feet from damage. Comfortable is key. Consider these factors when you shop for footwear:
- Have your feet measured carefully before choosing a pair.
- Buy a pair of shoes that fit whichever of your feet is larger.
- Never purchase shoes that you have to “break in”.
- Natural fibers and leather are good material choices.
Make wearing shoes a habit, except of course, when you sleep or bathe. It’s a good idea to let your feet “breathe” once in a while by wearing flip-flops, but be careful to minimize opportunities for your foot to get scratched or scraped. Water shoes are an excellent idea at the beach or by the poolside. Check the inside of your shoes before you put them on for any materials that may harm your feet such as a torn lining, sand, small pebbles, large pebbles, rocks, boulders… you get the idea! Inspect the outside to remove nails, tacks, or other sharp items stuck in the sole – those tend to end up stuck in your foot, too!
Opt for Foot-Friendly Socks
If you have diabetic neuropathy, buying socks will never be the same. You will have to be picky, but that’s okay as long as your feet are adequately protected.
- Choose socks that do not have seams. Seams may rub your skin, causing irritation or a rash.
- Make sure they are not too loose. Extra material can bunch up in your shoe and cause a blister.
- Be sure they are not too tight, either. Stuffing your foot in too small a sock can cut off proper blood circulation.
Replace socks at least once a day, or whenever your feet get sweaty. Never wear socks with holes in them.
Comprehensive Foot Exam
It is essential to have your feet checked by a health practitioner regularly.
Remove your shoes before entering the exam room, to remind both of you that they should be looked at. Expect your healthcare provider to check for circulation issues, skin changes or damage, nerve damage, and deformities like bunions or hammertoes. They should ask about your symptoms, home care routine, and your shoes and socks.
As a diabetic, you will probably be required to have more regular foot checks and your doctor may recommend exams and care from a foot specialist. Sunshine offers foot care services with experienced foot care nurses. Contact us at (907) 733-2273 to schedule an appointment and ensure your feet stay healthy and capable.
Living Well Workshops
Another wonderful resource for people living with diabetes is the Living Well Workshop series. While you may spend dozens of hours with your health care providers each year, you spend more than 8,700 hours on your own, making daily decisions that affect your diabetes. A Living Well with Diabetes self-management workshop can give you the ability to make those decisions smart and healthful. Click to out more here.