If you suffer from diabetes, it is necessary to take care of many aspects of your health. People who suffer from any type of diabetes are at a higher risk of getting a variety of foot problems. The two most common conditions that increase the risk of foot problems in diabetics include peripheral artery disease (PAD) and peripheral neuropathy. This is why it is very important to take proper precaution of your feet if you have diabetes. The importance of foot exams for diabetics cannot be stressed upon enough.
Managing your blood sugar levels and maintaining a healthy lifestyle will help you keep your feet healthy. Today we look at the importance of foot exams for diabetics and what diabetes patients should do to keep their feet healthy.
The Importance of a Foot Exam for People Suffering from Diabetes
Proper foot care for diabetics is crucial to the maintenance of good health.(1) It is estimated that nearly one in four people who have diabetes, tend to develop a foot condition that requires medical intervention. One of the most common conditions that can cause further complications for your feet is that of diabetic neuropathy.(2) This condition is a result of nerve damage due to diabetes that leads to an inability or difficulty of feeling your feet or your other extremities.(2) Neuropathy is a common condition that afflicts people with diabetes because of the damage caused to the nerve fibers due to persistent high blood sugar.
Problems of the foot due to diabetic neuropathy can cause foot injuries that you won’t even come to realize you have. In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of Family Practice has revealed that nearly half of the people who suffer from sensory loss from neuropathy report having no symptoms at all. This lack of sensation due to diabetic neuropathy often causes the foot damage to worsen, often even leading to an amputation.
Some of the other foot conditions that affect people with diabetes include: Ulcers, infections, calluses, deformities, joint and bone pain, breakdown of skin, vascular disease and changes in skin temperature.(2)
This is why neglecting to take care of your feet properly while being a diabetic is dangerous.
How to Carry Out a Foot Exam When Suffering From Diabetes?
As discussed above, when suffering from diabetes, it is extremely important to monitor your feet daily and it is equally important to maintain foot hygiene and health. This is why it is important to conduct a foot examination on a regular basis. Some of the basic aspects of conducting a foot examination by yourself include: Searching for certain changes to the feet. These include: Sores, blisters, cuts and cracks, calluses, signs of an infection, bunions or hammer toes, ingrown toenails, changes in foot color, redness, tenderness, changes in foot temperature, swelling and changes to the shape or size of the foot.
If you are having difficulty in examining your own foot or having trouble seeing it, then you can also try using a mirror to see better or you can ask a loved one or relative to help you conduct your foot examination. By doing a daily monitoring of your feet, you can lower the risk of complications arising from diabetes.
What Complications Can Arise From Diabetic Foot Conditions?
If you are a diabetic and don’t take care of your feet, then it can give rise to some serious complications arising from diabetes. Diabetic foot conditions such as ulcers, the breakdown of skin, and infection may even lead to amputations.(3, 4) This may involve the removal of your foot, removal of your toe, or even the entire leg if the condition spirals out of control or it goes beyond the scope of medical treatment.
Treatment for Diabetic Foot Conditions
Treatment for foot conditions arising from diabetes depends on their severity. While of course, prevention is the best line of defense for treating such foot conditions, this is not always possible.
Catching the any foot condition caused by diabetes early means less invasive treatment options. If the condition is detected early, even serious conditions of the foot that involve actual bone deformity or even ulcers of the foot, may be treated with the help of a cast that protects your foot, allowing it to heal. Casts are known to help in the healing of foot ulcers as they distribute the pressure on the foot. These casts also allow you to keep walking normally as you get treated.
In some cases, your doctor may also recommend the use of specialized shoes or a brace to help with the treatment of foot ulcers.
However, if your ulcer is more severe, then it may require surgical intervention. These foot ulcers are treated by removing and cleaning the impacted area. In these cases, recovery from such treatment may range from a couple of weeks to several months, depending on the severity of your condition.
When Should Diabetics See a Doctor Regarding Their Feet?
If you notice any of the above-mentioned changes to your feet, then you must contact your doctor right away. Do not treat even a small abnormality in your feet lightly or try to treat it yourself at home. Your doctor will evaluate your condition and then prescribe the required tests to determine the diagnosis. Keep in mind that an early diagnosis of foot problem reduces the risk of severe complications from diabetes.
If you have diabetes, then apart from conducting a self-examination of your foot every day, you should also visit your doctor once a year for a preventative foot examination. During this yearly examination, your doctor will do the following:
- Take a detailed history of your health.
- Ask about your diabetes, including how you are managing your condition and if there are any complications.
- Carry out a physical examination looking at the following aspects of your feet – nerves, skin, vascular system, and the musculoskeletal components.
- Help you understand the risks associated with diabetic foot conditions, helping reduce further complications.
Prevention Tips for Diabetes Foot Complications
It is possible to prevent foot conditions if you have diabetes. Here are some tips you can follow for preventing, such types of foot conditions if you are a diabetic:
- Make sure you carry out self-examination of your feet every day.
- Monitor any changes to your feet.
- Visit your doctor once a year for a thorough professional foot examination.
- Manage your blood sugar levels with the help of diet, exercise, medication and a healthy lifestyle.
- Do not wear tight-fitting shoes that may restrict blood flow to your feet.
- Ask your doctor if you require orthotics or custom shoes.
- Make sure you wear socks that help keep the moisture away from the skin of your foot.
- Clean your feet daily.
- Apply a light moisturizer on the feet, avoiding the area between the toes.
- Try to avoid walking barefoot.
- Regularly trim your toenails.
- Keep doing exercises that keep the blood moving to your feet.
- Avoid smoking.
Overall, the first and foremost step to preventing foot conditions if you are a diabetic is to monitor your feet daily and to consult your doctor if you notice even the smallest changes in your feet.
If you manage your diabetes properly, then you significantly reduce the chances of developing foot conditions. Keep monitoring your blood sugar levels and managing your diet to control your diabetes. You should also engage in a daily exercise routine in order to keep the blood flowing to all of your extremities.
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