How Does Diabetes Affect Your Feet and Legs?
Why does this complication occur in the first place? First, know that high blood sugar levels damage nerves. Researchers aren’t exactly sure how this damage happens, but they think that blood sugar may have a negative effect on the nervous system’s cells and enzymes, according to the Joslin Diabetes Center. These damaged nerves may lead to diabetic neuropathy, a condition in which you lose feeling in your feet or your hands.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, neuropathy occurs in about 70 percent of people with diabetes, and its symptoms can result in harmful infections. After all, if you can’t feel your feet, you won’t be able to notice cuts, sores, or pain. And if you can’t feel these irritations and wounds, they may lead to infection, and untreated infections can lead to gangrene, which in turn can require amputation.
Neuropathy is the cause of the dry skin experienced by many of those with diabetes: The disabled nerves in your feet can’t receive the brain’s message to sweat. Dry feet crack, which makes it possible for germs to enter the body. Nerve damage can also cause changes to the shape of your feet, which can make previously comfortable shoes hard to walk in. That friction creates calluses and bunions that can wear down and expose skin to germs.
Here are quick 10 tips you can learn from and share about how to prevent foot complications from diabetes:
1. Inspect Your Feet Every Day for Cracks, Wounds, and Sores
Nerve damage is a complication of diabetes that makes it hard to feel when you have sores or cracks in your feet. Place a mirror on the floor to see under your feet or ask a friend or relative for help if you can’t see all parts of your feet clearly.
2. Don’t Use Your Feet to Test Hot Water
When people with diabetes develop nerve damage, or neuropathy, it can be hard to tell if bath water is too hot. Stepping into a bath before checking the temperature can cause serious damage to your feet, since burns and blisters are open doors to infection. Use your elbow to check the water temperature before getting into the tub or shower.
3. Support Your Feet With Diabetes-Friendly Footwear and Socks
Shoe shopping for people with diabetes requires a little more attention to detail than you may be used to. Look for shoes with more depth in the toe box, good coverage of both top and bottom, and without rough seams inside the shoe that can rub on your foot. Likewise, seek socks without seams and material that controls moisture.
4. Don’t Go Barefoot, Whether You’re Inside or Outside
Wearing shoes with good coverage outside to protect your feet makes sense to most people, but even inside your house, puttering around without shoes puts your feet at risk for small cuts, scrapes, and penetration by splinters, glass shards and even a thumbtack. These small injuries can lead to infection so it’s best to wear shoes.
5. Keep Your Feet Dry to Reduce the Risk of Infection
Make sure that drying your feet is part of your hygiene routine. The space between your toes can harbor moisture and become infected. Prevent this by toweling off thoroughly after washing your feet and by removing wet or sweaty socks or shoes immediately.
6. See a Podiatrist Regularly to Treat Foot Problems
Even seemingly harmless calluses may become problems if you ignore them. When building your diabetes healthcare team, consider including a podiatrist, who can advise you on which foot care products and procedures are best.
7. Stabilize and Relieve Feet With Orthotic Shoes
Because wearing correct shoes is so important, orthotic footwear is a great investment in protection and comfort. When your feet have the proper support there is less risk of stress to your feet and potential problems. For healthy choices in shoes visit Aetrex.com.
8. Go Easy on Your Feet With Low-Impact Exercises
People with diabetes benefit from exercise, but what is the best kind? While exercise for diabetes certainly isn’t one-size-fits all, be mindful that many fitness classes and aerobics programs include bouncing, jumping, and leaping, which may not be good for your feet.
9. Quit Smoking to Improve Circulation in Your Feet
The dangers of smoking run from your head to your feet. The chemicals in cigarette smoke damage and constrict your blood vessels, which means that if you smoke, you’re depriving your feet of the nutrient-and oxygen-rich blood that fights infection and keeps them healthy.
10. Control Your Blood Sugar to Help Avoid Diabetic Neuropathy
Out-of-control blood sugar leads to neuropathy, and the better you are at controlling your blood sugar, the healthier your feet will be over the long term. Remember, if you already have an infection, high blood sugar levels can make it hard for your body to fight it.
The above tips are meant to be a quick guideline. You should always seek the advice and direction of your doctor or podiatrist for complete guidance on how to address diabetes.