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Diabetes meterHow does diabetes affect my feet?

There are two main foot problems caused by diabetes. The first foot complication caused by this disease is diabetic neuropathy. If diabetes isn’t controlled correctly, it can damage your nerves. Damaged nerves in the legs and feet may prevent you from feeling pain, heat or cold. If you don’t feel these things, it is called sensory diabetic neuropathy. Cuts or sores on the feet could get worse if you can’t feel them and treat them. Another effect of diabetic neuropathy is that the muscles may become damaged, and not work properly. The foot could be misaligned and create too much pressure on one area because of this. Did you know that about 10% of all people with diabetes develop foot ulcers? They are an effect of nerve damage and peripheral vascular disease.

Peripheral vascular disease is the second major problem diabetes causes in the feet. Diabetes affects the flow of blood throughout the body. Without this regular blood flow, it can take longer for a sore or cut to heal. This is called peripheral vascular disease. It actually only affects the blood vessels away from the heart. Those with peripheral arterial disease are at a much greater risk of developing gangrene or ulcers.

What can I do to care for my feet if I have diabetes?

There are many things that you can do to prevent diabetic foot problems. Daily, you should wash and dry your feet with warm water and mild soap. Make sure to dry your feet well between the toes. If you don’t, fungal infections are more likely to develop.

Use lotion to prevent cracking on your feet, but avoid the toes. You should not soak your feet because if the skin breaks down you are at more risk of infection. Lastly, if you have a form of nerve damage, make sure to be careful with water temperatures. You could burn your feet without even knowing it.

It’s very important to check the tops and bottoms of your feet daily using a mirror. If you can’t check them yourself, have a family member or loved one help you. When you examine your feet, look for:

  • Athlete’s foot – This is a type of fungus that causes redness, swelling, cracking and itching. Ask your podiatrist to recommend a treatment.
  • Cuts or scratches – If you find any, wash them with water and mild soap. Use an antibiotic cream and apply a bandage to protect the wounded area.
  • Ulcers – These are caused by minor scrapes or cuts that heal very slowly or from poorly fitting shoes. It’s important to get these treated quickly!
  • Blisters – Improperly fitting shoes are the main cause of this painful skin condition. Clean the area, apply antibacterial cream, and then cover it with a bandage.
  • Corns and calluses – After a bath, smooth these down with an emery board or pumice stone. It’s very important to not remove all of a callus at once. Never cut or completely remove a callus.
  • Ingrown toenails – Always cut your toenails straight across. Pain, redness and infection are all symptoms of ingrown toenails.
  • Discolored or yellowed toenails – This could be a sign of a fungal infection. Your toenails could also become thick or brittle. See your podiatrist to improve your toenail’s appearance.
  • Blue or black skin – This indicates a blood flow problem. It is an emergency if your foot is cold and blue or black. Seek emergency care immediately!

Lastly, the most effective way to prevent diabetic foot problems is to see your podiatrist at least once a year for a comprehensive foot exam. If you have foot problems, you should see them more often. Dr. Andy Irvine of Axis Foot & Ankle Clinic regularly treats patients with diabetic foot problems. If you notice changes in your feet or ankles, call one of our Calgary, AB offices at (403) 477-3338.

Obtained from Stock.Xchng

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