Diabetes is a very common disease which is caused when the blood glucose level of the body rises beyond acceptable levels. Diabetes is a metabolic disease which either hampers the body’s ability to make insulin or effectively use insulin. Insulin – is the hormone responsible for transporting sugar from the blood to the cells to be converted into energy. Diabetes can be very detrimental to one’s health if it is not managed properly. Long-term diabetes can damage the nerves, eyes, kidneys, and other organs.
It is also very harmful to the feet since it reduces the blood flow to the feet and also deprives them of oxygen and essential nutrients. Moreover, diabetes can lead to never damage (known as peripheral neuropathy) in the feet which could result in numbness. Diabetes causes sores, injuries, blisters, cuts to heal very slowly, which increases their chances of infection and in severe cases amputation. Diabetic neuropathy can also cause sharp agonizing pain in the feet, which can intensify upon lightest of all touch. Hence, it is very critical to take precautionary diabetic foot care.
Here are 10 basic tips for diabetic foot care which will prove very useful:
- Analyse your feet daily: The foremost precaution that a diabetic must take is to check the feet daily to detect any cuts, sores, blisters, redness, calluses, rashes or any other problem. Remember to check properly between all your toes. In case of intense nerve damage or poor blood flow, this could be life-saving since in such cases, injury or injections are not detected unless they become infected or severely irritated. In case the patient is unable to do an examination themselves, someone else could help.
- Wash your feet in warm water: Adopt this as an everyday habit since soaking feet in warm (not hot) water helps to keep them clean and remove any stuck bacteria. Remember to keep the temperature lukewarm and ensure it by dipping the hand first before soaking in the feet. Moreover, do not keep the feet in water for too long and immediately dry them up completely to avoid any infections and waterlogged sores. Keep your feet dry but soft: After washing your feet in warm water, remember to completely dry them especially between the toes. In many cases, diabetic patients may suffer from cracked and dry skin due to the high level of glucose in the blood. Cracked skin makes it easier for bacterial infections to affect the skin and also slows down the healing process of infections. Hence, post drying up the feet, apply an adequate quantity of skin lotion to prevent dryness but refrain from making it sticky or damp. Also, remember to avoid putting lotion between the toenails.
- Wear well-fitted, comfortable footwear: One of the most essential tips while taking care of diabetic feet is always wearing very comfortable and well-fitted shoes that prevent blisters, sores or any other issues. Even the slightest rubbing or misfit can cause blisters which would make it very hard to heal. If the blister becomes sore, it could become infected. It is best to buy shoes at the end of the day when the feet are in their highest possible size. Moreover, adapting to new shoes slowly by wearing them for only 1-2 hours in the initial week of purchase. Every day before wearing your shoes, check for any sharp objects, any sliding corners, or anything that can hurt the feet. Also, it is best to always wear easy socks or knee-length stockings to avoid blisters.
- Avoid walking barefoot: No matter how urgent, sudden or shorter the need or distance is – walking barefoot is a strict NO for a diabetes patient. Essentially because barefoot makes one more prone to injury and cuts which ultimately are every hard and slow to heal in patients with diabetes. Hence, always wear shoes or slipper while walking; it is also best to wear socks all the time because the natural fabric of the shoes – leather, rubber, etc. – could irritate the feet causing blisters. Remember to wear thick, cushiony socks.
- Trim and maintain your nails: While you might ignore this trivial precaution, it could severely impact the feet if the case worsens since long, ingrown toenails can cause swelling and fungal infection. Hence, it is always best to trim the toenails and prevent in-growth. Make the cuticles soft using a lotion before trimming the nails.
- Do not treat corns, hammertoes, bunions, calluses, etc. yourself: A diabetic person is very vulnerable to experience corns, hammertoes, bunions, calluses, etc. However, some of these might seem easy to treat at home, it is important to note that any mistake could potentially intensify the problem and cause severe infection. Hence, it is always best to visit a doctor in case any of these things pop up. Also, even for examining the problem, it is advisable to do after taking a shower when the feet and cuticles are soft.
- Visit a podiatrist: For diabetic patients that have nerve pain or weak foot muscles due to never damage, it is best to visit a podiatrist who will help guide you to wear orthotics to support the feet. Moreover, in cases where walking is too painful or impossible, a foot brace or orthopaedic shoes come in very handy.
- Engage in non-impact exercises: For a diabetic patient, exercising is very important but is also essential to know which exercises cannot be undertaken to avoid causing pressure on feet. Non-impact exercises such as swimming, cycling, yoga, etc. are very light on the feet and can be easily practised without causing any damage. Always use an antiperspirant on the soles of the feet to avoid excessive sweating.
- Manage your diabetes and speak up: A critical tip to remember for all diabetic patients is to manage their blood sugar levels to minimize the harmful impact on the feet. It is advisable to keep the blood glucose level under control, avoid smoking, get periodic foot exams, and keep feet warm and dry to avoid complications. It is very vital to discuss your problems with the doctor openly.
Precautionary tips for diabetic foot care can help significantly in avoiding complications.