In our lifetime, our feet take us around the world five times over. Still, it's easy to forget about our feet until they bother us. Many foot problems result from simple neglect and abuse from poor-fitting shoes. Foot health is vital to overall wellness, and issues with our feet sometimes signal larger problems affecting our entire bodies.
For many who suffer from diabetes, early signs of the condition often appear in the feet, and diabetic foot care is an essential part of managing the disease. Let's take a closer look at how diabetes affects the feet and examine some best practices for maintaining good foot health.
Blood Flow and Nerve Damage With Diabetes
Diabetes reduces blood flow to the feet and damages the nerves. The numbness resulting from this disease process, called peripheral neuropathy, is among the leading causes of falls. Falls cause injury, loss of independence, and death, especially among older adults. Poor circulation also slows healing, making it easier for foot wounds to become infected; serious infections may even require amputation.
Your most effective defense against these problems is having healthy foot care practices. Take a little extra time, pay attention to your feet, and measure the payoff in every step you take.
Foot Care Tips
Maintaining good diabetic foot care sounds like it should be simple -- and in many ways, it is. These time-tested tips can help you ensure healthy feet:
- Stop smoking. Yes, the single best thing to improve your overall health will help your feet, as well.
- Manage your diabetes. Check your blood sugar as recommended by your physician, eat a healthy diet, and stay active.
- Inspect your feet every day. It only takes a few moments. If you have difficulty, ask a loved one for help. Look for cracks, discoloration, sore spots, and open wounds. Report anything you find to your physician.
- Keep your feet clean. After washing, dry your feet thoroughly before applying a thin layer of moisturizing lotion. Pay special attention to between your toes -- keep them dry, and use talcum powder instead of lotion.
- Don't put your feet in hot water. Lukewarm soaks for brief periods of time are best.
- Wear socks and properly fitting shoes. Before putting them on, check your shoes for any foreign objects.
- Keep your toenails trimmed. Break out the clippers just after washing, when your toenails are easier to cut.
- Keep your feet warm. In the winter, wear warm socks and put on slippers while at home.
- Don't cut warts, corns, or callouses. Seek professional podiatry care first.
- Prevent foot burns. Wear sunscreen when barefoot outdoors, avoiding hot spots, and don't use heating pads or hot water bottles.
- Be mindful of blood flow to your feet. Avoid crossing them for more than a few minutes, and be sure to periodically elevate your feet and wiggle your toes frequently.
These simple diabetic foot care tips will help you minimize the risk of diabetes-related complications affecting your feet. You can keep them healthy by walking regularly. Paying close attention to those two supporting friends is a small thank-you for all the places they take you.