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Living Well

Diabetes and Foot Health

Last updated: Jul 25, 2016

How often do you have a foot exam?

If you suffer from diabetes, the importance of foot health cannot be underestimated. Diabetes can often cause medical issues with your feet and legs; many times severe.

How Diabetes Impacts Your Feet

Dr. Marco Ucciferri, a podiatric surgeon for Summit Medical Group, agrees with the CDC’s findings on diabetes and foot health. “Usually patients suffer from vascular and neurological complications, with neuropathy being more common,” explains Dr. Ucciferri.

Neuropathy occurs from high glucose levels. It inflicts nerve damage that causes pain and also lessens sensation in the lower limbs. It can start with numbness and a tingly sensation akin to pins and needles. As neuropathy progresses from the toes throughout, it can go as far as affecting just below the knee.

If left untreated, you’d eventually be able to put a needle into your leg or foot and not feel it.

Despite this seeming like a superpower, the reality is you may step on something dangerous and not even realize. This lack of sensation can also lead to foot ulcers, which present as a breakdown of the skin on the bottom of the foot or on the back of the heel. If you notice a callous, something as simple as changing up your shoes may be enough to help it heal.

However, diabetes with neuropathy may prevent you from even noticing the callus. This could result in a severe wound that may open up into a sore or become infected.

Indeed, if you do notice a wound that isn’t healing properly, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

As Dr. Ucciferri describes, “These wounds can go downhill quite rapidly, to the point of causing gangrene or infection to the rest of the body.” Have someone visually inspect your feet every now and then to keep an eye out for sores, wounds, calluses, or blisters.

While routine pedicures might seem like a good solution, those kinds of “treatments” are not ideal for diabetic patients, especially if neuropathy is present. Some pedicurists can be overly aggressive or use rough surfaces on your foot, which can increase the risk of a wound opening up. Additionally, foot baths at home or at the salon can actually dry out the skin and cause cracking.

Taking Proper Care of Your Feet

If you’re suffering from diabetic-related foot issues, there are several ways to take care of your feet.

The first is by using moisturizers or lotions such as Aquafer, Vaseline, or other derivatives. You want to look for a product that does a great job at keeping moisture inside the skin, which in turn will make it more pliable. Maintaining healthy, pliable skin on your feet helps prevent any potential breakdowns that can lead to wounds.

The second thing you can do is to get regular massages, which improves circulation and gets much-needed blood flowing to the extremities.

At home, you can also improve circulation by walking, jogging or running. Running in particular can help keep blood glucose low (thereby fighting neuropathy), greatly boost your circulation, and aid in weight management. Always check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. Stretch before and after a workout, and make sure you are wearing the right shoes.

On the subject of shoes, you may also consider diabetic shoes, which are usually covered by Medicare plans. Diabetic shoes are custom-molded shoes that can be designed as any kind of shoe, from sneakers to loafers. A mold is cast based off your foot shape and sent to a lab, where a special insole is created. This insole helps to prevent breakdowns of the skin, including irritation and callousing.

Foot health is an important subject, especially if you suffer from diabetes. By being proactive and avoiding risk as much as possible, you can reduce the potential for developing problems with your legs or feet.

If you need to get your feet properly examined,
or want to find out more about diabetic shoes,
speak to your podiatrist or physician.