If you’re one of the 37.3 million Americans with diagnosed diabetes, you probably know all about the dietary changes that can help you stay healthy. And you also probably know that diabetes raises your risks of other medical problems, like kidney disease and vision loss.
But many people don’t know how diabetes can affect their feet — or they underestimate how serious foot-related complications can be. In fact, diabetes is a leading cause of lower-limb amputations, typically related to deep sores that lead to serious infections.
A top-ranked orthopedics specialist in McKinney, Texas, Dominique Nickson, MD, helps diabetes patients at Next Step Orthopedics play a proactive role in their foot health, teaching important self-care strategies that can significantly reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications. If you have diabetes, here’s what you can do to keep your feet healthy.
Diabetes can damage your blood vessels, impairing circulation, which in turn hampers your natural healing processes. That makes it a lot easier for infections to take hold — and a lot harder to treat them.
Increasing physical activity improves circulation, especially when you add exercises like walking that keep your leg muscles active. Physical activity also helps reduce the risk of two other circulation problems in diabetes: varicose veins and peripheral artery disease, which can also take a toll on healing.
Wear compression stockings
When diabetes damages your veins, circulation in your legs and feet slows down. Compression socks (also called diabetic socks) help maintain circulation in your feet.
There are lots of compression socks on the market. Ask Dr. Nickson for his recommendations to make sure you get the best value (and the most benefits).
Smoking dramatically impairs your circulation and only adds to the blood vessel damage with diabetes. Since blood flow plays a significant role in healing and tissue health in general, it’s easy to see why quitting is crucial for avoiding sores, infections, and even amputations.
Manage your glucose
If you have diabetes, this one may sound like a no-brainer. After all, the first advice most diabetes patients receive is to monitor their glucose and watch what they eat.
Despite that advice, though, many people don’t monitor often enough, or may not stick to their eating plan the way they should, leaving them at higher risk for foot problems. Plus, most people’s treatment needs change over time, which is why it’s so important to work closely with your doctor to make sure your care plan stays on track.
Establish a daily foot regimen
Make it a habit to wash your feet every day, checking carefully for blisters, scrapes, cracks, corns, calluses, or tiny abrasions. Dry your feet thoroughly, and if you use moisturizer, skip the toes since slippery oils can increase friction between them.
When trimming your nails, trim straight across to reduce the risk of ingrown nails, and file the edges gently. Consider sprinkling your feet with a medicated powder to prevent fungal infections and sweating.
Pay attention to your shoes
Ill-fitting shoes are a major cause of corns, calluses, and cuts. Wearing shoes that fit properly — along with clean, dry socks — protects your feet from bumps and bruises, too.
Avoid flip-flops and slide-on shoes, and opt for shoes that surround your entire foot. At home, look for the same style in slippers, and try not to go barefoot.
Don’t put off care
If you have diabetes, it doesn’t take long for a tiny problem — like a blister, scrape, or ingrown toenail — to turn into a major medical issue. While it may be tempting to treat these issues on your own or even ignore them, either approach can lead to infections and other problems. Having regular visits with Dr. Nickson helps ensure your feet stay healthy, so you can always put your best foot forward.