If you have diabetes, you are surely aware that you must take great care to avoid problems with your feet. This common complication of diabetes is caused by neuropathy (damage to the nerves) and poor circulation. When you have nerve damage in the feet, you may not feel discomfort or even pain. This can increase the likelihood of a minor irritation or nick becoming a major (even life threatening) injury.
If you have poor circulation in your extremities, an injury to your foot may take a long time to heal, so it would be more prone to becoming infected. In addition to this risk, there are a number of other foot problems that plague people with diabetes. If not properly attended, these minor problems can become extremely complicated. In this article, we will discuss some of the most common foot related complications for people with diabetes. We will also present some good advice regarding self-care, lifestyle and diabetic footwear to help you avoid dangerous, diabetes related foot complications. Read on to learn more.
Foot and Leg Problems Caused or Exacerbated by Diabetes
|1. Sores and Ulcers: People with diabetes are prone to skin sores or ulcers that simply do not heal. These deep sores may extend to bone-level. If you have neuropathy and poor circulation in your feet, an unnoticed nick or blister can become an infected ulcer fairly quickly.|
|2. Calluses and Corns: If you have reduced feeling in your feet, you may not feel pressure if your footwear is pressing down on a callus or a corn. Constant pressure can cause blisters, ulcers and sores to develop. Wearing properly fitted shoes for diabetics can help prevent this problem.|
|3. Dry Skin, Cracks and Fissures: Both neuropathy and poor circulation can contribute to dry skin, and this is not just an aesthetic problem. Dry skin tends to crack, callus and tear. Dry, damaged skin that does not heal will lead to sores, ulcers and infection. Moisturizing at bedtime can help prevent this problem.|
|4. Toenail Problems: With nerve damage and poor circulation, you may not feel problems such as nail fungus, ingrown toenails and torn toenails. As with any other damage, untreated nail problems can cause life-threatening infection.|
|5. Foot Deformity: When you have nerve damage in your feet, your muscles may weaken and lose tone. This can lead to the development of bunions and hammertoes. These deformities can cause pressure inside your shoes. As we’ve mentioned, pressure leads to blisters, sores, ulcers and ultimately infection.|
|6. Charcot Foot: This is a very serious foot deformity that results from the breakdown of the bones caused by low circulation and nerve damage. If a weakened bone breaks and goes unnoticed, soft tissue damage and severe deformity will follow. The damaged tissue may become necrotic, and this can necessitate amputation.|
Build a Good Working Relationship with Your Foot and Ankle Surgeon!
Regular visits to a good foot and ankle surgeon will help you stay on top of your foot health needs. These specialists are highly skilled professionals who coordinate with the rest of your health care team to help you create a healthy lifestyle in order to avoid and deal with diabetes complications. When you visit a foot and ankle doctor, he or she will conduct testing to determine your level of blood circulation and sensation in your feet. The surgical doctor will review your lifestyle and may make recommendations about diet and exercise to help improve foot (and overall) health.
If necessary, the surgeon can intervene with wound healing technology, joint reconstruction and a variety of surgical techniques aimed at saving your feet and legs. What Can You Do to Avoid Diabetes Complications and Surgery? There are many proactive steps you can take to reduce your symptoms, improve your quality of life and avoid the specter of amputation. In addition to maintaining a healthy, balanced diet and participating in appropriate exercise on a regular basis, close attention to personal care will help you keep your feet healthy. Here’s how!
Inspect your feet every day. If you are not able to see your feet yourself, engage a helper.
Here’s what you should look for:
1. Skin Problems * Discoloration * Bad odor * Drainage * Swelling * Redness * Scrapes * Rash * Cuts
2. Nails * Failure to grow * Discoloration * Thickening * Deformity * Yellowing * Striation * Changes * Damage * Striping
3. Hair loss: Loss of hair on the toes, top of the foot and/or lower legs can indicate poor circulation.
4. Fractured or broken bones: Heat, inflammation and swelling can indicate a break as can a change in the direction, size or shape of your foot. Seek help immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.
Do’s and Don’ts
1. Do keep your toenails neatly trimmed. Follow your podiatrist’s advice to trim properly or have your nails trimmed professionally (by your podiatrist, a nurse or a helper who has been correctly trained by your podiatrist.)
2. Do keep your floors clutter free to avoid hurting yourself by stepping on stray objects. Be especially careful regarding sharp objects (e.g. insulin needles, tacks, push pins, etc.) which may pierce slipper soles and injure your feet.
3. Always wear correctly fitted diabetic footwear. Wearing specially designed socks, slippers and shoes will protect your feet against injury. Non-binding socks promote good blood circulation, and well-padded, supportive shoes help prevent bone fractures and breaks.
4. Shake shoes and socks before wearing . No matter how good your footwear is, an undetected foreign object or a spider inside can cause serious foot injury.
5. Wear your socks properly. Pull your socks up smoothly to avoid wrinkles, which could cause pressure. Be careful not to pull your socks up so tightly that they put pressure on your toenails. Leave a little wiggle room for your toes.
6. Don’t ignore pain in your legs, especially if it occurs while you are at rest or doing very little. This kind of pain may indicate a blocked artery.
7. Don’t trim away calluses or corns or treat blisters on your own. See your doctor or podiatrist for proper treatment in a medical setting.
8. Don’t use over-the-counter corn and callus treatments such as medicated pads. With reduced feeling in your feet, you are in danger of burning away excessive amounts of skin and causing serious injury.
9. Don’t walk around barefooted. Wear properly fitted slippers or shoes for diabetics instead.
10. Don’t wear wet or dirty socks and shoes. Change your socks every day and anytime they get wet. If your shoes become wet and/or dirty, clean them and allow them to dry thoroughly before wearing them again.
Is It Possible to Entirely Prevent Amputation?
Of course, there are some situations in which even the most diligent diabetic foot care cannot prevent injury, infection, complications and eventual amputation, but for most people with diabetes amputation is entirely avoidable. When you establish and maintain a healthy lifestyle, keep regular appointments with your health care team and always wear properly fitted, high quality footwear for people with diabetes, you can expect to keep your healthy toes, feet and legs intact!