According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, researchers predict that about 2.5 million people will have diabetes in Canada by the year 2016. Damage to the nervous system (neuropathy) affects over 50% percent of people with diabetes and can lead to the loss of sensation in your feet. Just try for a minute to imagine what it would be like to have no feeling in your feet. Foot problems can be a big risk for diabetics. Diabetics must constantly monitor their feet or face severe consequences, including a possible amputation.
In a diabetic patient a cut as small as a blister can cause a lot of damage. Diabetes decreases blood flow which makes injuries slow to heal and predisposes one to infection.
Persons with diabetes should inspect their feet every day. Look for small puncture wounds from slivers of glass, wood hair and other objects, bruises, redness, warmth, blisters, ulcers, scratches, cuts and nail problems. Get someone to help you, or use a mirror if you cannot see your own feet.
Below is some good advice for taking care of your feet especially if you are diabetic:
1. Examine your feet daily and also after any trauma, no matter how minor, to your feet.
2. Use a water-based moisturizer every day (but not between your toes) to prevent dry skin and cracking.
3. Wear cotton or wool socks (or diabetic socks – white is the best colour). Avoid elastic socks and hosiery because they may impair circulation.
4. Move or remove any items you are likely to trip over or bump your feet on. Keep clutter on the floor picked up. Light the pathways used at night - indoors and outdoors.
5. Always cut your nails with a safety clipper, never a scissors. Cut them straight across and leave plenty of room out from the nail bed or quick. If you have difficulty with your vision or using your hands, let your chiropodist do it for you or train a family member how to do it safely.
6. Wear sturdy, comfortable shoes whenever feasible to protect your feet. To be sure your shoes fit properly, see your chiropodist for fitting recommendations or shop at shoe stores specializing in fitting people with diabetes. If you have flat feet, bunions, or hammertoes, you may need prescription shoes or shoe inserts.
7. Regular exercise will improve bone and joint health in your feet and legs, improve circulation to your legs, and will also help to stabilize your blood sugar levels. Consult your physician prior to beginning any exercise program.
8. If you smoke any form of tobacco, seriously consider quitting. Smoking accelerates damage to blood vessels, especially small blood vessels leading to poor circulation, which is a major risk factor for foot infections and ultimately amputations.
9. Following a reasonable diet, taking your medications, checking your blood sugar regularly, exercising regularly, and maintaining good communication with your physician are essential in keeping your diabetes under control.
10. See your chiropodist or podiatrist on a regular basis
Prevention of diabetic foot problems involves a combination of factors.
1. Good diabetes control
2. Regular leg and foot self-examinations
3. Knowledge on how to recognize problems
4. Choosing proper footwear
5. Regular exercise, if able
6. Avoiding injury by keeping footpaths clear
7. Visit your chiropodist on a regular basis