Foot problems caused by diabetes are some of the most common complications associated with diabetes. If not managed properly, diabetes can cause chronic complications and often irreversible damage to the feet.
John Viscovich, DPM, MBA, FACFAS, a board certified podiatrist with Westchester Health, explains that there are two types of foot problems caused by diabetes, and that the combination of these two types of damage can threaten your fingers and toes.
1. Diabetes can cause neurological damage by destroying the nerves that give sensitivity to the feet (diabetic neuropathy). This can impact the ability to feel pain, resulting in injuries from cuts, blisters and inflammation because the person cannot feel them.
2. Diabetes can also cause vascular damage, which is damage to the blood vessels that nourish the tissues of the feet (diabetic vasculopathy). When there is decreased blood flow or lack of oxygen, the nutrient supply is reduced, which leads to slow healing of wounds or other injuries. This increases the risk of infection and foot ulcers. In severe cases, untreated foot ulcers may require amputation.
Here are 8 ways to prevent complications in the feet caused by diabetes
If you have diabetes, it’s absolutely critical that you take good care of your feet and avoid complications, urges Dr. Viscovich. Following these 8 guidelines will help you maintain healthy feet, ankles and toes and hopefully prevent complications.
- Receive constant medical supervision by a physician, preferably a specialist (podiatrist). Monitor your blood sugar levels, use your medications, practice good foot care and do not skip medical checkups.
- Check your feet every day. Use a mirror for the areas you can’t see or ask someone to help you. Look for cuts, swelling, redness or any change in nails and skin.
- Keep your feet clean and dry. Wash your feet every day with cold or lukewarm water — NEVER use hot water. To check the temperature, touch the water with your hands or elbows. And be sure to dry your feet well, especially between your toes.
- Use an easily absorbed moisturizer and make sure to put it between your toes as well as the top of your feet and heels. This reduces dryness that can lead to injury caused by rubbing socks or shoes.
- Increase your blood circulation. Spend 5-10 minutes of every day doing simple exercises. For example: Sit down and put your feet up moving your fingers up and down. Avoid sitting with your legs crossed for long periods of time and do not use tight socks.
- Wear clean socks every day. It’s critically important to wear the right type of socks. Choose ones that are comfortable with padding and without seams or elastic bands. Acrylic and acrylic-blend socks will minimize the impact pressure on your feet.
- Be very careful when cutting your toenails. Ask your physician or podiatrist which tools you should use to properly trim your nails and manage calluses on the bottom of your feet. If there is any change in the color or appearance of your nails, you should alert your doctor immediately.
- Wear comfortable shoes that do not cause friction. Avoid high heels because they tend to generate pressure on the toes and heels. Do not walk barefoot, not even at home.
People with diabetes should check their feet twice a day
Regularly performing foot checks is an essential part of diabetes management. Foot checks should also be carried out by a healthcare professional at annual checkups. In particular, people with neuropathy who may not be able to feel the pain wounds (large or small) in their feet should definitely perform daily foot checks. If you are having any issues with your feet and/or ankles, please call (914) 232-1919 to make an appointment to come in and see me. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.