Eight tips for a healthy diabetic foot
Diabetes mellitus, or diabetes as it’s more commonly known, is a group of metabolic diseases in which a person has high blood sugar. This is either because the body doesn’t produce enough insulin (Type 1) or because cells don’t respond to the insulin that is produced (Type 2).
Unfortunately, there are many long-term complications that can accompany the diagnosis of diabetes and severely impact the health of your feet.
“The effect of diabetes on the circulation and immune system can ultimately lead to foot-related problems because of the body’s decreased ability to heal itself,” says Cindy Micciola, Chiropodist at the General Foot Health Clinic located at The Scarborough Hospital. “For example, one diabetes-related disease, Retinopathy, affects blood vessel formation in the retina and can make it very difficult to see the foot leading to difficulties in managing healthy feet.”
Wendy Macartney, Chiropodist, adds that with kidney impairment, another diabetes-related disease, patients have elevated creatinine levels which are strongly associated with lower extremity amputation.
Diabetes can also damage the sensory nerves, especially in the hands and feet and can affect foot health in a few ways. You might not be able to feel an injury, meaning a simple blister or cut may go unnoticed and become infected due to an impaired immune system. This could lead to potential serious complications such as a diabetic foot ulcer, a wound that may take several months or years to heal. If the body is unable to heal the wound, it could lead to amputation.
Another risk results from not being able to feel your fingers. In this case, it would be very difficult and unsafe to cut your own toenails.
Neuropathy, which is related to diabetes, impacts the nervous system and can cause numbness, tingling and burning in the feet. It may also lead to increased dryness of the skin because the nerves supplying the sweat glands may be affected. The pain from the tingling and burning is a serious side effect that can interrupt daily activities such as walking and sleeping.
With all of these factors at play, prevention is the key to good foot health. Having a good daily foot routine will lead you in the right direction.
Here are some important tips for a daily foot care routine.
- Wash your feet in warm (not hot) water using a mild soap. If you cannot feel the temperature, have a family member test it first. There is no need to soak the feet. Anything longer than 10 to 15 minutes can dry out the skin.
- Dry your feet carefully, paying extra attention to drying between the toes. Moisture can cause maceration, the softening and whitening of skin that is kept constantly wet, or a fungal infection.
- Inspect your feet for cuts, cracks, blisters, ingrown toenails etc. Using a long handled mirror can help with the bottom of the feet if bending is difficult.
- If you do notice a cut or scratch, wash with water, dry and cover with a dressing.
- Trim nails straight across and file sharp edges. Do not cut nails too short. If you do not have feeling in your feet, visit a foot specialist such as a chiropodist or podiatrist.
- Apply moisturizer daily. Do not put cream in between toes.
- Change socks daily and wear shoes that fit your feet. Wearing white socks is good, because if you do have a cut and cannot feel your feet, the drainage from the cut will be noticeable.
- Most importantly inspect feet daily!
For more information about foot health and the General Foot Health Clinic, visit Chiropodists, Wendy and Cindy at their open house on Wednesday, July 18 from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Light refreshments will be served. The General Foot Health Clinic is located at The Scarborough Hospital, Medical Mall, 3030 Lawrence Ave. E., Suite B02, Scarborough.