Did you know 2021 was a big year for diabetes? It was the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin — a life-changing moment for people with diabetes. Until that point, there wasn’t much that could help people with high blood sugar, which often affected life expectancy.
Fast forward to 2022, and experts have learned more and more about living a long and healthy life with this chronic condition. But one area is often easy to overlook: the importance of diligent foot care.
Our experts at Premier Foot and Ankle Center evaluate, treat, and prevent foot-related problems that put people with diabetes at risk. If you have diabetes, here’s what you need to know about foot complications and how to avoid a crisis.
Diabetes and the feet
Today, more people than ever live with diabetes. And, unfortunately, nearly half of them have some form of nerve damage because of chronically high blood sugar. This can affect nerves anywhere in your body, but it’s most common in the legs and feet — a condition known as diabetic neuropathy.
The symptoms of diabetic neuropathy can vary in severity and include:
- Numbness or decreased sensation to temperature and sensation
- Extreme sensitivity to touch
- Sharp pains, cramping, burning, or tingling
- Muscle weakness
These changes in nerve function also put your feet at risk because it’s harder to notice a problem if you can’t feel it.
To make matters more dangerous, living with diabetes can also affect blood flow to your extremities. Without healthy circulation, you end up with a higher risk of getting sores or wounds on your feet that become infected and don’t heal properly.
These factors make diabetic foot care essential to avoid serious and even life- and limb-threatening situations, like sepsis and amputation.
Understanding your foot risks when you have diabetes
The good news is that there are ways to protect your feet and your health if you have diabetes.
First, do everything you can to keep your blood sugar levels under control. Other factors that increase your risk of nerve damage, poor circulation, and foot complications include:
- Being 40 or older
- Being overweight or obese
- Having high blood pressure
- Living with high cholesterol
- Having a long history of diabetes, especially with chronically elevated sugar levels
Finally, you must check your feet every day to catch potential issues as quickly as possible.
Caring for your feet with diabetes
When you have diabetes, we recommend taking the following steps to avoid serious problems:
- Washing with lukewarm water each day
- Drying your feet gently, especially between your toes
- Checking for swelling, blisters, redness, cuts, and nail problems
- Wearing dry, clean socks
- Choosing shoes that fit comfortably and properly
- Avoiding walking barefoot
- Cutting nails straight across
It’s also important to see a foot care specialist regularly. Not only can we safely trim your nails if you have thickened nails, numbness in your feet, or visual impairments, but we can look for injuries and other foot problems, like corns and calluses.
You should contact a foot care specialist immediately if you notice any foot problems during your daily inspections.
Practicing good foot care each day and having an experienced podiatrist as part of your diabetic management plan can help keep your feet and body in optimal health.
Do you have diabetes? Schedule a diabetic foot care consultation at Premier Foot and Ankle Center in Worcester, Webster, or Leominster, Massachusetts, today.