Why foot care is so critical when you have diabetes

November 02, 2022 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

Your feet might be the last thing that comes to mind when you consider everything you need to know about managing diabetes.

But when you have diabetes, your feet and legs can be the first body parts affected by nerve damage, also called diabetic neuropathy, a complication of diabetes caused by high blood sugar.

Nerve damage can leave your feet feeling numb or tingly and can make it harder to feel pain—which normally would alert you to the presence of a wound.

Half of all people with diabetes have nerve damage, so it’s important to take care to prevent it. Left unchecked, nerve damage can increase the risk of an unexpected foot wound that gets infected or doesn’t heal well.

When diabetes isn’t well managed, it can also affect a person’s ability to heal properly. It may take longer to heal than someone who doesn’t have diabetes. Infections that don’t get better when treated could require amputation of the foot or body part to prevent the infection from spreading.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends people do the following to prevent nerve damage:

  • Don’t smoke, as smoking reduces blood flow to the feet.
  • Eat healthy, with an emphasis on fruit and vegetables. Avoid excess sugar and salt.
  • Get moving! Spend at least 10 to 20 minutes a day being physically active.
  • Be sure to take any medication your doctor prescribes.

The damage that can result from diabetic neuropathy means foot care is essential when you have diabetes. There are things you should do daily to keep tabs on your feet, including:

  • Wash your feet daily with warm, soapy water and check them for wounds, blisters, corns or redness.
  • Keep toenails trimmed, cut straight across
  • Always wear socks and shoes (or slippers at home) to protect your feet

Ask your physician to check your feet at each appointment. The CDC recommends you see your doctor right away if you experience:

  • Pain in your legs or cramping in your buttocks, thighs, or calves during physical activity
  • Tingling, burning or pain in your feet
  • Loss of sense of touch or ability to feel heat or cold very well
  • A change in the shape of your feet over time
  • Loss of hair on your toes, feet and lower legs
  • Dry, cracked skin on your feet
  • A change in the color and temperature of your feet
  • Thickened, yellow toenails or fungus infections such as athlete’s foot between your toes
  • A blister, sore, ulcer, infected corn or ingrown toenail

Our podiatrists can help you take better care of your feet. Learn more or schedule an appointment.

Learn more about diabetes care at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Have a wound that’s not healing properly? Learn more about our wound care and hyperbaric services.

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