Most people without diabetes don’t realize that the nerve and blood vessel damage caused by the disease can become a major problem for their feet. This happens when peripheral neuropathy (which occurs in about 70 percent of people with diabetes) develops and feeling is lost in the extremities.
To ensure the best possible foot health, follow these 9 easy tips to avoid injury, and your feet will be healthy longer.
- Inspect Your Feet Every Day
Nerve damage is a complication of diabetes that makes it hard to feel when you have sores or cracks in your feet. Place a mirror on the floor to see under your feet or ask a friend or relative for help if you can’t see all parts of your feet clearly. Look for any changes in color, sores, or dry, cracked skin.
- Invest in Proper Footwear and Socks
Shoe shopping for people with diabetes requires a little more attention to detail than they may be used to. Look for shoes with more depth in the toe box, good coverage of both top and bottom, and with minimal seams inside the shoe (they can rub on your foot). Here at Anodyne, we specialize in this type of footwear, and work with a network of providers that can fit you for the best pair to suit your needs. Check out our Locations Page to find a provider in your area. Provided you qualify, Medicare part B will cover a portion of these shoes. Likewise, seek socks without seams, preferably socks that are padded and made with a material that controls moisture.
- Don't Go Barefoot
Wearing shoes with good coverage outside to protect your feet makes sense to most people, but even inside your house, puttering around without shoes puts your feet at risk for small cuts, scrapes, and penetration by splinters, glass shards, and a misplaced sewing needle or thumbtack. If you have neuropathy, you might not notice the associated wounds, until they become infected. It’s best to protect your feet at all times, even in the house.
- Keep Your Skin Dry
Make sure that drying your feet is part of your hygiene routine. Moist skin can break down, leading to infection. Prevent this by toweling off thoroughly after washing your feet and by removing wet or sweaty socks and shoes immediately. You can still use moisturizer to prevent dry, cracked skin — just avoid putting it in between your toes.
- Treat Foot Woes Promptly
Attend to bunions, calluses, corns, hammertoes, and other aggravations promptly to prevent pressure sores and uneven rubbing, and ultimately, infections. Even seemingly harmless calluses may become problems if you ignore them. See a podiatrist, a doctor who specializes in foot care. Shoes and custom made inserts can help relieve any pressure point caused by these maladies. Like the shoes, Medicare part B will cover a portion of these inserts, as well (provided you qualify).
- Opt for Non-Impact Aerobics
People with diabetes benefit from exercise, but you still must go easy on your feet. Many fitness classes and aerobics programs include bouncing, jumping, and leaping, which may not be the best activities for your feet, especially if you have neuropathy. Instead, try exercises, such as walking, that don’t put too much pressure on your feet. Just make sure you have the right shoe for whatever activity you choose.
- Quit Smoking Now
This is a no-brainer for a lot of reasons. The dangers of smoking run from your head to your feet. The nicotine in a cigarette can decrease the circulation in the skin by 70 percent. If you smoke, you are depriving your feet of the nutrient-and oxygen-rich blood that helps keep them healthy.
- Control Blood Sugar
There’s a direct relationship between blood sugar levels and damage to nerve cells. Out-of-control blood sugar leads to neuropathy, which will make it hard to know when your feet are at risk or being damaged. The better you are at controlling your blood sugar, the healthier your feet will be over the long term. Also, if you already have an infection, high blood sugar levels can make it hard for your body to fight it.
- Get Regular Check-ups
Your doctor and your diabetes team are great sources of information if you need ideas and inspiration for taking care of your feet, quitting smoking, or staying on top of your weight, blood sugar, and other measures of health. Of course, if you notice any changes in your feet that concern you, it’s a good idea to see your doctor as soon as possible.