Diabetes has a lot of detrimental effects on the body and even when properly treated and managed can still lead to a variety of complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, retinopathy and neuropathy. It isn’t common knowledge but diabetes is the leading cause of lower extremity amputation – in fact the National Health Service of the United Kingdom explains that people with diabetes are fifteen times more likely to face amputation compared to other people without the condition. Foot problems are the most common reasons for hospitalization of diabetic patients.
Foot problems occur most frequently when there is nerve damage, also known as neuropathy. Neuropathy causes a tingling pain which a lot of people refer as a burning sensation or a sharp stabbing pain, as if being pricked by thousands of needles. Diabetic neuropathy also causes loss of feeling in the foot – this is extremely dangerous because an injury to the foot can occur and the person would not be aware of it. A person could be walking with a pebble in their shoe the entire day without knowing and this could easily lead to an open sore; blistering can also occur from wearing shoes that are too tight and a diabetic patient would not be aware of it. If a patient is unaware of the foot injury, it could easily lead to infection and eventually gangrene which would result in the amputation of the infected site to prevent any further complications.
Although this may sound terrifying, proper diabetes management and foot care can help prevent foot ulcers. Improved diabetes care and management is one of the predominant reasons why rates of lower limb amputations have decreased by more than fifty percent in the past twenty years, as stated by the Mayo Clinic.
Proper foot care is a must in order to prevent lower extremity amputation in diabetics – listed below are some excellent tips for proper diabetic foot care:
Daily inspection of your feet is the biggest preventative measure! Check for any blisters, cuts, cracks, or sores, as well as tenderness and swelling. Make sure to also check the sole (bottom) of the feet – this can be done with a hand mirror or with someone’s help.
Washing feet daily sounds simple enough but is extremely important because it helps rid the feet of fungus and bacteria. Make sure to use lukewarm water as hot water may cause burns which can lead to more complications. Also be sure to dry the feet, especially between the toes; moisture can lead to fungus and is also a prime environment for the growth of bacteria. To ensure that feet stay dry, use talcum powder between the toes while moisturizing the tops and bottoms of the feet.
Schedule regular foot checkups with your doctor or podiatrist. They can help inspect your feet for signs of nerve damage, circulation issues and any other related foot problems. They can also help to remove calluses and even trim problem toe nails.
Socks are very important – never go barefoot, even around the house! When choosing socks, make sure they are not constrictive and are made of fibers that pull moisture away from the skin such as cotton and viscose. Many diabetic socks are constructed with metal fibers such as copper, silver and gold which prevent the growth of bacteria. More information can be found here.
Shoes that fit properly also play a huge role in protecting the feet. Diabetic shoes are available in multiple widths and sizes to fit specific foot needs and they are also able to fit prescription orthotics if more support is needed. In fact many people qualify for Medicare diabetic shoes at least once every calendar year!
Take an active part in managing diabetes and diabetic foot care and the threat of amputation becomes minimal. Diabetes isn’t a death sentence but it does affect life choices made. This is just one other area that people with diabetes need to be aware of.