Diabetes, a systemic disease resulting in an elevated blood sugar level, affects approximately 16 million Americans. Many complications are associated with diabetes, primarily vascular and neurologic problems. But diabetes can also result in many foot ailments, so sufferers need to pay special attention to their feet.
There are two types of diabetes:
- Type I is hereditary and often starts at an early age.
These sufferers manufacture little or no insulin, and must
inject insulin into their bloodstream to control their blood glucose level.
- Type II, or adult onset diabetes, typically occurs in the obese. The insulin they produce is either not enough or does not work properly. Type II diabetes, however, can be managed with diet, exercise and oral medication. Occasionally, an injection of insulin may be required.
Diabetes results from either the body's decreased production of insulin or when the body cannot properly utilize insulin. Blood glucose levels then rise, bringing on symptoms.
Diabetes can be a silent disease. Initially, you may not even know you have it without a blood test from your doctor. But after time, symptoms will develop, including:
- Diminished sensation or the inability to feel pain, associated with numbness or tingling of the hands or feet. The feet can easily become infected when sufferers don't notice they have a pebble in their shoes, for example.
- Peripheral Vascular Disease, or poor circulation leading to ulcers, infections and other serious foot conditions.
- Decreased resistance to infection.
- Kidney failure resulting in dialysis.
- Eye problems resulting in blurred vision and
- Increased thirst and hunger.
- Dry mouth and frequent urination.
- Unexplained weight loss or gain.
If you have a diabetic foot, follow these tips to avoid infection:
- Inspect your feet daily for blisters, bleeding and lesions between the toes. Use a mirror to examine the bottom
of your feet as well.
- Wear therapeutic footwear, including specially made diabetes socks, slippers, insoles, orthotics and other diabetic footwear.
- Wear high and wide toe box shoes.
- Wear footwear that fits well and protects your feet.
- Wear conforming removable insoles in your footwear.
- Wear seamless diabetes socks and stockings to keep moisture away from your feet.
- Use diabetic foot creams – just not between the toes.
- Use bed cradles to reduce the weight of heavy bedding on your diabetic foot.
- Diabetic skin care is important! Wash your feet daily with warm, soapy water and dry them thoroughly, especially between
- Trim your toenails carefully, straight across, and do not gouge into the corners.
- Don't excessively soak your diabetic foot…
especially in hot water.
- Don't use hot water bottles or heating pads on your feet
- Don't use acids or chemical corn removers on diabetic feet.
- Don't perform "bathroom surgery" on corns, calluses or ingrown toenails.
- Don't smoke.
See your podiatrist on a regular basis, and contact one immediately if your foot becomes swollen, painful, red or infected.
Information on foot, leg and lower body health conditions provided by The Podiatry Institute, dedicated to advancing the standard of care in podiatric medicine and its effects on muscoskeletal health.