Summers are here! Time for flip-flops and sandals and spending time on the feet barefoot. However, this is not the story for people with diabetic foot problems or people with nerve damage in the foot area. Foot problems are one of the most severe complications for people with diabetes. From sore feet and ulcers to Charcot feet and athlete’s foot, the list is endless!
Which is why diabetic foot care is a must for people with high blood sugar levels. In this article, how blood sugar affects your feet and legs, the most feared foot complications along with summer foot care tips for diabetics.
How Does Blood Sugar Levels Affect Your Feet & Legs?
As we all know, the body needs the energy to process day-to-day activities. The energy is received by the cells with the help of insulin. Insulin absorbs the sugar from the bloodstream and helps cells to use it for energy. If the body becomes insulin resistant or is unable to produce enough insulin, the process does not work correctly and leads to sugar circulating in the blood.
Prolonged periods of sugar remaining in the blood can cause serious damages to different parts of the body, feet and legs being the most prominent. In fact, diabetes is one of the major causes of all foot amputations in the world.
Diabetes & Foot Complications
By now, you know that diabetes can cause damages to your peripheral nerves. Moreover, the damage lessens the ability to experience pain, cold, or heat. This means you will not feel pain if you have a foot injury or walk all day with a stone inside your shoe. Moreover, nerve damage can also change the shape of your feet and toes. This condition is known as neuropathy.
The following are the most common foot complications caused when you suffer from neuropathy:
A sore or wound can let in bacteria and fungus to the body. Although this is not harmful in normal cases, it is quite different when the person has diabetes. Since a diabetic is unable to feel any pain or discomfort, he/she will not take care of the cut, which leads to the skin not getting healed properly. When the broken skin gets infected, it causes a crater-formation in the skin known as foot ulcers. Foot ulcers are one of the common diabetic foot problems.
Treatment: It is very crucial to treat foot ulcers in the early stages. The end result of not treating them can be amputation. Therefore, diabetics are recommended to check their feet every day to see for wounds or cuts. Early on, this can be treated with simple antibiotics.
Athlete’s foot is another diabetic food problem where the skin between the toes starts to crack, peel, and flake. It can even progress to oozing and blisters.
Treatment: The main cause of athlete’s foot is moisture. Therefore, a diabetic must keep the foot skin dry and keep their shoes often outside in the sun. Moreover, it is recommended to wear socks and always avoid going barefoot. Washing your feet regularly and anti-fungal medication can clear the condition.
The fungus responsible for athlete’s foot can cause another condition called the toenail fungus. However, this diabetic foot problem is not easy to treat, unlike the athlete’s foot. The signs of toenail fungus are thick, cracked, jagged, or darkened(brown or yellow) nails. It makes the nails so hard to clip that sometimes a person requires a doctor’s help.
Treatment: You can prevent the infection by simply washing your feet regularly and clip your nails short and straight. Do not cut them deep and avoid any moisture around the feet. Generally, a doctor prescribes oral medication or laser therapy to treat toenail fungus.
Just like how you are unable to experience discomfort or pain, you won’t be able to feel any weakness or pain in your bones of the feet. This can lead to a severe diabetic foot problem known as Charcot foot where the bones get weak due to nerve damage. Eventually, the joints collapse and the foot starts taking a different shape.
Treatment: In most of the cases, a person trips or slips before developing this condition. See for signs of injury or redness in the feet or legs.
Summer Diabetic Foot Care Tips
The following are some summer diabetic foot care tips that would help you protect your feet from infections and let you take that perfect dip in the pool without any worries:
- Maintain your sugar levels
- Inspect for foot injuries(cracks, wounds, sores, etc.)
- Never test the water temperature using your feet
- Wear diabetic-friendly footwear & socks
- Always try to keep your feet dry
- Do not put pressure on your feet during exercises
Maintain your sugar levels
Diabetics must try controlling their sugar levels with regular exercise, proper diet, and medication. Ideally, the sugar levels must be lower than 130 mg/dL before meals and not more than 180 mg/dL after meals. For managing sugar levels, you should invest in a good glucometer.
Inspect for foot injuries (cracks, wounds, sores, etc.)
Since diabetes leads to difficulty in sensing any form of discomfort, it is recommended to check your feet on a daily basis and look out for any changes in colour, sores, or cracked skin.
Never test the water temperature using your feet
Although checking the water temperature may seem like harmless, hot water can cause scalding of the skin leading to burns and blisters. Instead, you can use your elbow to test the temperature before getting into the shower.
Wear diabetic-friendly footwear & socks
Shoe shopping requires more attention for diabetics. Go for shoes that are without seams inside the shoe and has more depth in the toe area. Pair it with socks that are made from cotton or material that can hold moisture.
Always try to keep your feet dry
As part of your diabetic foot care routine, always try to keep your feet dry. Do not go for footwear that would reduce the space between your toes.
Do not put pressure on your feet during exercises
A diabetic must include a fitness regime in his/her daily routine. However, please note all exercises are not good for your feet. Which is why you must look out for programs that go easy on your feet and puts less pressure.
Just because a person has diabetes does not mean he/she can’t enjoy summers. With a few extra precautions, you can enjoy the coming summer months while still protecting your feet!