According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more than 29 million Americans currently living with diabetes, including about 8 million individuals who have the disease but are unware. The relationship between diabetes and the health of your feet is a rather important one. Understanding this disease, and especially the measures you must take for effective diabetic foot health, can make a big difference in your health – one that could potentially save your life.
Diabetes and Complicating Conditions
If you have diabetes, there are many different implications for your physical health and well-being, including heart disease, kidney disease, pancreas malfunction, and vision problems (even blindness!). This is clearly a serious medical issue, but it is important not to overlook the way the disease affects the health of your feet.
With this disease, your cells are unable to receive and process the glucose necessary for proper functioning, especially with regards to cellular growth and energy. Two major complications often accompanying diabetes that may impact your feet are peripheral arterial disease (PAD) and neuropathy.
Neuropathy is another term for nerve damage, and a diabetic individual can experience sensations that should not exist—like tingling, burning, or pain—or even no sensations at all. Numbness tends to be particularly alarming, since it means an individual can sustain a foot injury without being aware damage has happened.
The other major complication frequently associated with diabetes is PAD. This is a condition of poor circulation that results when blood vessels have become hardened and narrowed, thereby restricting the amount of blood able to flow to the extremities, especially the lower limbs. Your body relies on blood to provide nourishment to body tissue, and especially when an injured body part needs to be repaired or an infection needs to be fought.
Diabetic Foot Care Planning
Given a diabetic body’s compromised autoimmune functions and natural healing processes, it is important you establish a comprehensive diabetic foot care plan to stay safe and healthy. Generally speaking, the two main goals are to recognize issues at their earliest stages and, even better, prevent serious complications from arising in the first place. Dr. Matt Wettstein and Advanced Foot & Ankle Center will assist you in creating an effective plan for diabetic foot health, including how to perform essential actions like:
- Daily foot inspections. Physically inspecting all surfaces of both feet on a daily basis is necessary to discover any problems at their earliest, most treatable stages. This is especially important for those who have neuropathy. Perform your inspection before going to bed, and use a mirror or assistance from a loved one if you are unable to see the bottoms of your feet.
- Proper foot hygiene. Wash your feet every day with warm (not hot!) water, mild soap, and a soft hand towel. Afterward, gently pat your feet dry and take special care to ensure the areas between the toes are not damp (attractive to bacteria and fungus) before putting on diabetic socks.
- Moisturizing. Fissures and cracks accompanying excessive dryness provide a path for fungus and bacteria to potentially enter your body—which features the damp, dark, and warm conditions they need to thrive—and create a dangerous situation. You can reduce the risk of this happening by moisturizing your heels, tops, and bottoms of your feet. Avoid the areas between your toes, however.
- Protection. Always wear footwear to protect your feet if you have diabetes - even at home! Before putting on a pair of shoes, take time to inspect the insides and make sure nothing is in them that could damage your feet.
- Exercise. Regular exercise promotes healthy blood flow and reduces your risk of diabetic complications. Be careful with this, though, and do not start an exercise program without consulting with Dr. Wettstein and your primary care physician first.
- Regularly scheduled appointments. We are both on the same team when it comes to your foot health. Coming in to see us at either our Twin Falls or Burley offices for regular appointments makes it more likely issues are caught at their earliest stages and treated appropriately. We can also provide tips and advice to help prevent problems from developing in the first place.
Professional Diabetic Foot Care
We have various treatment options to address issues that arise, but the best course of action is simply to follow preventative measures and a comprehensive plan to take care of your diabetic feet. With that said, be sure to reach out to us as soon as you become aware of anything unusual or out of the ordinary.