10 Ways For People With Diabetic To Protect Their Feet And Legs
How Does Diabetes Affect Your Feet and Legs?
Diabetes can lead to many problems and ultimately affect the foot health of patients.
Diabetes can damage your nerves. If the nerves in your legs and feet are damaged, you may not feel hot, cold or painful. This loss of sensation is called "sensory diabetes neuropathy". If you can't feel the cut or pain on your foot due to neuropathy, the wound will become worse and become infected.
Because the nerves that make the muscles work are damaged, the muscles of the foot may not work properly. This may lead to poor alignment of the feet and too many pressure points. It is estimated that up to 10% of patients with diabetes develop foot ulcers. Foot ulcers occur due to nerve damage and peripheral vascular disease.
Peripheral vascular disease
Diabetes also affects blood flow. Without good blood flow, wound healing takes longer time, and poor blood flow in the limbs is called "peripheral vascular disease". Peripheral vascular disease is a circulatory disorder that affects blood vessels far from the heart.
If your infection does not heal due to poor blood flow, you are at risk of ulceration or gangrene (tissue death due to lack of blood).
Because the incidence of amputation was similar in both sexes (5.6% male and 5.3% female), all statistical analyses were performed in combination with men and women. High fasting plasma glucose levels, high HbA1c, and duration of diabetes at baseline were all independently associated with the dual risk of amputation.
Other foot problems leading to ulcers
(1) Calluses: calluses are caused by uneven weight distribution, usually on the sole of the front foot or heel. Callus can also be caused by improper shoes or skin abnormalities, and proper care is necessary.
(2) Bunion bursitis: bunion bursitis can form on one or both feet. The most common cause is wearing high-heeled shoes and shoes with narrow toe. Surgical adjustment of the toes may be necessary if severe pain and / or deformity are caused.
(3) Beriberi: beriberi is a fungus that causes itching, redness, swelling and cracking. Bacteria can enter through cracks in the skin and cause infection.
(4) Fungal nail infection: nail infection fungi may become discolored (yellowish brown or opaque), thick and brittle, and can be separated from the rest of the nail. Nail injuries put you at risk of fungal infections, which are difficult to treat.
We have prepared 10 tips for people with diabetes to better protect their feet and legs in daily life：
1. Inspect Your Feet Every Day for Cracks, Wounds, and Sores
Nerve damage is a complication of diabetes that makes it hard to feel when you have sores or cracks in your feet. “Patients with diabetes are looking for any changes in color, sores, or dry, cracked skin,” says podiatrist Steven Tillett, DPM, of Portland, Oregon. Place a mirror on the floor to see under your feet or ask a friend or relative for help if you can’t see all parts of your feet clearly.
2. Don't Use Your Feet to Test Hot Water
When people with diabetes develop nerve damage, or neuropathy, it can be hard to tell if bath water is too hot. “They won’t realize they are actually scalding their skin,” explains Dr. Tillett. Stepping into a bath before checking the temperature can cause serious damage to your feet, since burns and blisters are open doors to infection. Use your elbow to check the water temperature before getting into the tub or shower.
3. Support Your Feet With Diabetes-Friendly Footwear and Socks
Shoe shopping for people with diabetes requires a little more attention to detail than you may be used to. Tillett advises looking for shoes with more depth in the toe box, good coverage of both top and bottom, and without seams inside the shoe that can rub on your foot. Likewise, seek socks without seams, preferably socks that are padded and made from cotton or another material that controls moisture.
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4. Don't Go Barefoot, Whether You're Inside or Outside
Wearing shoes with good coverage outside to protect your feet makes sense to most people, but even inside your house, puttering around without shoes puts your feet at risk for small cuts, scrapes, and penetration by splinters, glass shards, and the misplaced sewing needle or thumbtack. If you have neuropathy, you might not notice these dangerous damages until they become infected. It’s best to wear shoes at all times, even in the house.
5. Keep Your Feet Dry to Reduce the Risk of Infection
Make sure that drying your feet is part of your hygiene routine. “The space between the toes is very airtight,” says Tillett. “Skin gets moist and breaks down, leading to infection.” Prevent this by toweling off thoroughly after washing your feet and by removing wet or sweaty socks or shoes immediately. As mentioned previously, you can still use moisturizer to prevent dry, cracked skin — just avoid putting it between your toes.
Even seemingly harmless calluses may become problems if you ignore them, notes Tillett. When building your diabetes healthcare team, consider including a podiatrist, a doctor who specializes in foot care, instead of heading to the pharmacy for an over-the-counter product for feet — some products are irritating to your skin and can actually increase the risk of infection even while they treat the bunion, callus, or corn on your foot.
Because wearing correct shoes is so important, orthotic footwear is a great investment in protection and comfort. Shoes made especially for people with diabetes are available at specialty stores and online, or you can visit your podiatrist for advice. Medicare Part B will cover one pair of extra-depth or custom-molded diabetic shoes a year, plus additional inserts to reduce pressure on your feet. Your doctor may recommend these shoes to you if you have an ulcer or sore that is not healing.
7. Go Easy on Your Feet With Low-Impact Exercises
People with diabetes benefit from exercise, but what is the best kind? While exercise for diabetes certainly isn't one-size-fits all, be mindful that many fitness classes and aerobics programs include bouncing, jumping, and leaping, which may not be good for your feet. This is especially true if you have neuropathy. Instead, look into programs, such as walking or swimming, that don’t put too much pressure on your feet. Just make sure you have the right shoe for whatever activity you choose.
8. Quit Smoking to Improve Circulation in Your Feet
The dangers of smoking run from your head to your feet. The chemicals in cigarette smoke damage and constrict your blood vessels, which means that if you smoke, you're depriving your feet of the nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood that fights infection and keeps them healthy. “Diabetic patients already have risk factors that compromise their blood vessels. It’s never too late to stop smoking,” says Tillett.
9. Control Your Blood Sugar to Help Avoid Diabetic Neuropathy
“There’s a direct relationship between blood sugar level and damage to the nerve cells,” says Tillett. Out-of-control blood sugar leads to neuropathy, and the better you are at controlling your blood sugar, the healthier your feet will be over the long term. Remember, if you already have an infection, high blood sugar levels can make it hard for your body to fight it.
10. Check in With Your Care Team for More Help
Your doctor and your diabetes healthcare team are great sources of information if you need ideas and inspiration for taking care of your feet, quitting smoking, or staying on top of your “numbers” — your weight, blood sugar, and other measures of health, such as blood pressure. Of course, if you notice any changes in your feet that concern you, it’s a good idea to see your doctor before your next regularly scheduled check-up.
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