Those who are new to diabetes are sometimes surprised to find that foot care becomes an important priority. It’s part of a learning curve you face after a diabetes diagnosis since the health challenges of the condition are far-reaching. Even minor foot problems can escalate due to the complications of diabetes and its associated conditions.
Adding a podiatrist to your diabetes management team like the provider at Optima Foot and Ankle, located in Bend, Oregon, is a smart move. Arrange your consultation with our team after you’ve been diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes to stay on top of your foot health.
The effects of diabetes on your feet
Diabetes places you at increased risk for peripheral artery disease (PAD), meaning the walls of your blood vessels develop cholesterol plaques. Vessels can narrow to the point where the blood flow to your feet becomes weak.
Without a good blood supply, you’re more susceptible to infection. If you get a small cut or abrasion on your foot, it could become a diabetic foot ulcer, which is a slow-healing open wound. If not properly treated, a foot ulcer can spread to the bone. Statistics show that foot ulcers precede 85% of amputations caused by diabetes.
You can also develop nerve damage, a condition called neuropathy. This nerve damage could prevent you from feeling pain in your feet. Almost one-half of people with diabetes may have peripheral neuropathy from increased blood sugar levels over many years. Since you have less feeling in the foot, you don’t know if your shoe has caused a blister after a long hike, or whether you’ve stepped on a staple or pin that fell to the floor.
Summer is traditionally a time for bare feet, flip-flops, and stylish sandals — footwear not associated with good foot protection. Here are some tips for keeping your feet healthy through the warm weather months.
#1 Check your feet daily
As a diabetic, your feet need extra care. Look for abrasions, cuts, corns, calluses, redness, swelling, or problems with your nails. Use a mirror to examine surfaces you can’t see directly.
#2 Keep your feet clean and dry
Staying active is great for keeping your diabetes in check. Be sure to bring extra socks and change during the day. Don’t keep your feet in hot, sweaty socks for hours. Talk to our team about compression socks and if they’re right for you.
#3 Choose lukewarm when washing
If you like to take baths, use a thermometer to test the water. If you have nerve damage, you could step into scalding water and not realize it. Wash your feet thoroughly daily, and wash and dry between your toes.
#4 Pick the right shoes
You may love high heels, but most of them have narrow, pointed toes that cram your toes against each other and can cause abrasions on the sides of your feet. Wear flat shoes with a wide toe box so your feet have lots of room.
If you find a brand of shoe that you really like, buy more than one pair so you can give each a chance to breathe and dry out after each wear.
#5 No room for bare feet
Never go barefoot — even in the house. It’s too easy to get a cut on the bottom of your foot. It’s tempting at the beach, but think about all of the pieces of shells in the sand. There’s nothing stylish about foot ulcers, so make footwear choices with protection in mind.
You’ve got lots to learn about the potential challenges of diabetes, and caring for your feet is crucial. Contact Optima Foot and Ankle by phone or online to set up a consultation to learn more about how to protect and care for your feet.