You need your feet for almost every activity in your life.
It’s probably a safe bet that you want to keep them—and keep them working correctly—for as long as possible.
That means if you have diabetes, regular foot care should be near the very top of your to-do list.
Diabetes puts feet at significant risk of injury, wounds, nerve damage, infections, and many other problems. And diabetic wounds are by far the leading cause of non-traumatic lower limb amputations in America today.
Fortunately, almost all of the worst complications can be managed or prevented successfully if you prioritize home and professional preventative care.
How Does Diabetes Endanger My Feet?
Over a period of time, elevated blood sugar levels can cause damage and distress all over the body. In particular, there are two major consequences of uncontrolled blood sugar that contribute to most major diabetic foot problems:
- Peripheral nerve damage. With weakened nerves in your legs and feet, you may not be able to sense an injury until it’s too late. Balance, coordination, muscle strength, and other functions may also be affected.
- Poor circulation Lower circulation in the feet means oxygen and nutrients can’t get to the feet as effectively. Your body has a harder time closing wounds, fighting infections, and healing injuries.
As you can probably see, this is a dangerous combination. Even “minor” cuts and bruises might develop into a significant wound. You can’t feel the pain, so you don’t notice the injury and continue to walk on it. Your body can’t heal it, so it festers. A few days (or even hours) later, you have a big problem.
How Can I Protect My Feet if I Have Diabetes?
Effective diabetic foot care relies on mainly three things: daily foot checks, regular podiatric checkups and care, and immediate treatment for any developing wounds or injuries.
Daily Foot Checks
If you have diabetes, you should carefully inspect both feet at least once per day for any signs of trouble. Do this at a regular time each day, ideally with feet that you’ve recently cleaned and dried. If you can’t see your entire foot on your own, use a hand mirror or ask for help.
Make note of any redness, swelling, bruises, cuts, damaged toenails, dry and cracked skin—in other words, any signs of injury, damage, or wear and tear. Feel your feet with your hands as well—you may notice bumps, temperature fluctuations, etc.
Any trouble spots that do not improve within a few days or get worse should be evaluated by a foot and ankle specialist.
Regular Podiatric Checkups
Even if don’t notice any problems or you aren’t experiencing the symptoms of neuropathy, you should still get a regular diabetic foot checkup at least once per year. During this time, your podiatrist can:
- Test your nerve and circulatory health Damage to nerves and circulation isn’t always reversible, and symptoms may not become noticeable until damage is extensive. Regular screenings help you identify and address problems before they start to affect your day to day life.
- Offer preventative care options A new pair of diabetic shoes or orthotics, for example, may allow you to continue living an active lifestyle while minimizing the risk of foot injury.
- Address emerging issues This can include basic maintenance care, such as caring for skin and toenails, or it might mean addressing more serious issues like bunions, hammertoes, or wounds.
If you ever do spot a festering sore, significant swelling, or the early stages of a bony deformity during your foot checks, don’t risk waiting it out. Get help immediately. Few things are as tragic as being forced to amputate when earlier detection and treatment could have enabled a full return to health.
Dr. Pilling at Canyon Foot & Ankle is an experienced foot and ankle expert skilled at evaluating diabetic feet and providing emergency care, including in-office wound care (assisted by laser treatment where appropriate) and reconstructive surgery for diabetic foot deformities.
If you are currently concerned about your diabetic feet—or you’re just past-due for your annual checkup—give us a call today at the office closest to you: