Photo above shows feet being taken care of and pampered. Photo credit: © Can Stock Photo Inc. / rmarmion.
Diabetes is a very devastating disease. It affects the entire body, from head to toe.
According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, there are over 9 million Canadians with diabetes and pre-diabetes. Unfortunately black Canadians have a disproportionately higher rate of diabetes than other groups. Consequently, black individuals end up with many of the complications that come with diabetes, including significant problems with the feet.
The focus of this article is the feet, because proper foot care is oftentimes taken for granted by people with diabetes, and they end up getting hard to heal sores or ulcers, and many end up losing toes or even their entire leg.
It is crucial that if you, or someone you know is diabetic, that the feet is examined every day, and seek care early if you get a foot injury, or notice a cut or something unusual. If you cannot examine your feet yourself, seek help. If you do not notice or treat the sores, they can become infected, and lead to amputation.
Diabetes affects the feet in two significant ways. It can reduce blood flow to your feet, depriving your feet of oxygen and nutrients, making it more difficult for blisters, sores, and cuts to heal. Also, diabetic nerve damage called peripheral neuropathy, can cause numbness in your feet. When you cannot feel cuts and blisters, you are more likely to get sores and infections.
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy can also cause sharp pain in your feet. You may become excruciatingly sensitive to the lightest touch, like the sheets on your bed.
Here are some ways to minimize the damage to your feet from the effects of diabetes:
CHECK BOTH FEET EVERY DAY: Look over both feet carefully every day, and be sure you check between all of your toes. If you cannot do it yourself, have someone with good vision, help you. Blisters and infections can start between your toes, and with diabetic neuropathy, you may not feel them until they have become irritated or infected.
WASH YOUR FEET EVERY DAY: Wash both of your feet briefly each day with warm, not hot, water. You may not be able to feel heat with your feet, so test the water with your hands first. Avoid soaking too long in water, since waterlogged sores have a harder time healing. Dry your feet right away, and remember to dry gently between all of your toes.
WEAR WELL-FITTING SHOES: Purchasing well-fitting shoes is an investment worth making. Even the slightest rubbing or misfit shoe can cause a blister that turns into a sore that becomes infected and never heals. Buy better-fitting shoes, or try different socks, even at the most minor signs of redness or irritation, since you may not be able to feel when it is getting worse. Before buying or putting on the shoes, check your shoes for rough seams, sharp edges or other objects that could hurt your feet. Break your shoes in gradually.
ALWAYS WEAR SHOES OR SLIPPERS: Always wear socks with your shoes, since leather, plastics, and man-made shoe materials can irritate your skin and quickly bring on blisters.
COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR DOCTOR: Tell your doctor about any changes in sensation in your toes, feet, or legs. Speak up if you notice pain, tingling, a pins-and-needles feeling, numbness, or any other unusual signs
APPLY SKIN LOTION DAILY TO YOUR FEET: Your skin may be dry and cracked, and cracked skin means it is easier for bacteria to get under your skin and harder for infections to heal. Try to use the skin lotions specially formulated for diabetics. Use a small amount of skin lotion daily, but be sure your feet feel dry, not damp or sticky, afterward. Try not to get the lotion in between your toes.
KEEP YOUR TOENAIL TRIMMED: Get someone trained in using the right instruments to trim and file your toenails. Stay away from using knives or razor blades. It is easier to trim your nails after using lotion, when your cuticles are softer.
DO NON IMPACT EXERCISE: Exercise or keeping active, is recommended for diabetics as a way to keep blood sugar levels low. Swimming, cycling and yoga are increasingly popular non-impact ways to exercise, with minimal impact on your feet. Talk with your diabetes educator or doctor before starting an exercise program.
FIX BUNIONS, CORNS OR HAMMERTOES: All of these make it hard to fit shoes comfortably. A good chiropodist, or foot doctor, can help you fix these problems and take better care of your feet.
CONSIDER FITTED ORTHOTICS: A chiropodist or foot doctor can also fit you with shoe inserts called orthotics, to support your feet if your have diabetic nerve pain or the muscles have become weak from nerve damage.
CONTROL YOUR BLOOD SUGAR: The best prevention for nerve pain, ultimately, is to manage your diabetes well. Studies have shown this to be true for type 1 (insulin dependent), and type 2 diabetes.
If you have diabetes, daily foot care is essential…make it a part of your daily routine.
Allan Bucka Jones is a Health Promoter and Broadcaster. You can contact Allan Bucka Jones at email@example.com.