Diabetes and Foot Health

People with diabetes need to take extra care of their body, especially their feet. Checking your body daily can prevent many of these problems.

Warning Signs

If you develop any of these warning signs you should contact a podiatrist immediately before it’s too late. Here are 10 things to look for when checking your feet.

  • Pain in your legs or cramping in your buttocks, thighs, or calves during physical activity.
  • Tingling, burning otherwise pain in your feet.
  • Loss of the sense of touch or the ability to feel heat or cold very well.
  • Your feet changing shape over time.
  • Change in the color or temperature of your feet.
  • Loss of hair on your toes, feet, and lower legs.
  • Dryness and cracking on the skin of your feet.
  • Toenails that turn thick and yellow.
  • Fungus infections such as athlete’s foot that appears between your toes.
  • Any blisters, sores, ulcers, infected corns, and ingrown toenails.

2 Ways Diabetes Can Hurt Your Feet

  • Diabetes reduces the blood flow to certain areas of the body like the legs and especially the feet. The reduced blood flow makes it harder for you to heal from injuries.
  • Nerve damage from diabetes can cause you to no longer feel pain in your feet. That may lead to know knowing if you have sustained an injury that needs treatment.

Taking Care of Your Health

Many serious problems can be averted just by doing some of the following things for your feet and the rest of your body.

  • Loose the extra weight – Studies have shown that for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of weight you lose it lowers your risk of diabetes by 16 percent. Not only does regular exercise help prevent diabetes it makes you feel so much better about yourself and it increases your overall heart health.
  • Smoking – If you’re a smoker stop. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. Smoking not only makes it hard to exercise and lose weight, but it reduces the blood flow to your feet which can cause serious health problems, including loss of one or both feet.
  • Shoes that fit – wearing ill – fitting shoes can be a real problem. Shoes that don’t fit properly can easily cause sores and blisters that can be hard to heal and be easily infected. Spend the money and get shoes that fit well.
  • Foot exams – Go to your podiatrist at least 4 times a year to get a complete foot exam. You may be able to head off some serious problems right when they are just starting to develop.
  • Taking medications – make sure you take your medications even when you feel perfectly fine. By the time you start feeling bad again it may be too late and you may already have a problem. Take your medications as directed whether you think you need them or not.

Just How Serious is It?

In 2008 alone more than 70,000 people with diabetes had a leg or foot amputated. Amputations in people with diabetes account for 60 percent of the leg and foot amputations not resulting from an injury like in a car crash. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) people with diabetes are 8 times more likely to lose a leg or foot to amputation as people without diabetes.

Taking Care of your Feet

  • Wash your feet with warm water daily. Don’t use water that is too hot and do not let your feet soak. Dry your feet well, especially between your toes.
  • Check your feet every day for new cuts, sores, blisters, or any other changes to your skin’s color, any thickness or yellowing of the toenails or swelling and redness.
  • If your skin is dry rub lotion on after you wash and dry them. Don’t put lotion between your toes.
  • File down corns and calluses gently with an emery board of pumice stone after a shower or bath.
  • Be sure to cut your toenails once a week or whenever needed. Cut them after washing when they are the softest. Shape them to the toe but not too short and file them with an emery board.
  • Don’t run around in your socks or bare feet. Protect your feet by always wearing shoes or slippers.

Common Diabetes Foot Problems

It’s important to be aware of common foot problems so you can head off any real problems before they become serious or permanent. Here are some common ones to pay attention too.

  • Bunions- bunions form when your big toe slants towards the smaller toes and the place between the bones near the base of your big toe grows big. Bunions often run in the family and sometimes require surgery to repair.
  • Ingrown toenails- this happens when an edge of a nail grows into the skin. The skin can get red and infected. They happen sometimes when you cut into the corners of your toenails when you trim them. Shoes that are too tight can also cause them.
  • Hammer toes- hammer toes form when a foot muscle gets too weak. Diabetic nerve damage can cause the weakness. The weakened muscle makes the tendons in the foot shorter which makes the toes curl under the feet. Hammer toes can cause problems walking and finding shoes that fit properly. Wearing shoes that are too short can cause hammer toes. Hammer toes can run in the family as well.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is you have to check your body daily when you are diabetic. Since your feet are the in the most danger, you should check them frequently and be sure to see your podiatrist at least 4 times a year to check your feet. Don’t become one of the 70,000 Americans to lose their feet or legs each year.


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