What do your feet have to do with diabetes, you ask? A lot. Over time, high blood glucose levels can deaden your nerves and clog up the cardiovascular system, making neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease a real danger to the feet. And as someone with diabetes, your body is slower to heal and prone to infection, so small blisters and abrasions can quickly turn into serious complications if not treated promptly and properly:
Treat Your Feet Right
The American Podiatric Medical Association estimates that the average person walks about 115,000 miles in a lifetime (over four times around the equator, if you’re counting). With all that walking, your feet get put through a lot of wear and tear. For most people, the pain of a blister or cut is a signal to get off your feet and let them heal. But if you have diabetic neuropathy in your feet, the pain signal is impaired or gone altogether, and you may not notice an injury until you actually see it.
Daily Foot Check
It only takes a minute to check your feet for signs of abrasions, blisters, or other problems, and it could save you serious medical problems down the road. Make it a part of your daily routine, either as you get dressed for the day, at shower time, or as you get ready for bed. Before you know it, it will become a healthy habit. You should give your entire foot the once over, and check between your toes. If you have flexibility and/or vision problems and have trouble seeing everything adequately, ask a family member for help. A flexible, magnified mirror can help you see those hard to reach spots.
Blisters, Corns, And Calluses
Do not pop or break blisters, as it will increase your risk of infection. Keep a close eye on the wounds. If they start to get worse, exhibit signs of infection (like pus, redness and warmth, or odor), or don’t look as if they are healing within a day or so, call your doctor immediately for further instruction. Keep your feet moisturized to avoid skin fissures or cracks caused by dryness. Try not to apply lotion between the toes, as it can breed fungal growth or infection. Instead, sprinkle baby or talcum powder to keep these areas dry. Peripheral neuropathy can cause a 10 percent decrease in skin moisture in the feet, so if you have any degree of PN, take extra care to use skin cream regularly. If you develop corns or calluses, you’re better off letting your podiatrist treat them. If you have PN, do not try to remove corns or calluses with cutting implements or chemical treatments on your own. A pumice stone may be used only with your doctor’s approval.
To prevent ingrown toenails, clip your nails straight across. Don’t cut too close to the skin line to avoid an accidental slice into your skin. You can smooth out any sharp corners with an emery board. Thick or discolored toenails should be checked out by your podiatrist, as they could be a sign of a fungal infection.