If you’re one of the 37.3 million Americans who have diabetes, you know that constantly monitoring your blood sugar is essential. That’s because diabetes doesn’t just affect your blood sugar levels; it can impact your entire body from your vision to your kidneys to your feet.
That’s right: Foot care should be right at the top of your list of priorities. Your feet are more vulnerable than you might realize, and here's why you need to pay them exceptional attention.
Here’s a closer look at the importance of foot care for diabetes, courtesy of Dr. Rogers Walker and the team here at Walker Urgent & Family Care in Little River, South Carolina.
How diabetes affects your feet
Diabetes doesn't just affect your blood sugar levels; it impacts your entire body, including your feet. When you neglect foot care, you're putting yourself at risk for serious complications. Poor blood circulation and nerve damage 一 two common complications of diabetes 一 can lead to reduced sensation in your feet. This means you might not notice cuts, blisters, or sores that could eventually escalate into infections.
To compound matters, poor circulation can make your wounds slow-healing. Slow-healing wounds (ulcers) can increase your risk of serious complications, including gangrene (tissue death) and even amputations. In fact, diabetes contributes to an amputation every three and half minutes in the United States.
In addition to an increased risk of ulcers and bacterial infections, diabetes also increases your risk of fungal and yeast infections. Diabetics who develop infections have a 155-fold increased risk of needing an amputation.
Taking proactive steps to care for your feet can significantly reduce the chances of these complications.
Regularly examining your feet leads to early detection
Although these complications are serious, the good news is that regularly checking your feet can help you spot the signs of trouble as soon as possible. Early detection can save you from bigger troubles down the line.
Catching problems like blisters and cuts at an early stage allows for quicker intervention and reduces the likelihood of infections spreading. Remember, staying vigilant is your best defense against diabetes-related foot problems.
The ABCs of foot care
Taking care of your feet can help you avoid these complications, but what does it mean to “take care of your feet”? Let’s review the ABCs of foot care:
Always keep them clean and dry
Wash your feet daily with mild soap and lukewarm water. Gently pat them dry, especially between the toes, as excess moisture can create a breeding ground for fungal infections. As you pat your feet dry, visually inspect your feet for any red flags. This includes redness, swelling, cuts, blisters, or ingrown nails.
Although you shouldn't apply moisturizer between your toes, you can apply a cream to your heels if they’re cracked or dry. Keeping your heels soft can help you avoid cracks (which can get infected).
Be mindful of footwear
Wearing the right shoes is more important than you think. Choose footwear that fits well, provides adequate support, and doesn't cause friction. Be sure to look inside your shoes for any foreign objects or debris before you put them on. This is especially important if you have nerve damage and won’t be able to feel hot spots i.e., the precursors to blisters.
Pair your shoes with good quality, moisture-wicking, anti-friction socks.
Careful nail maintenance
When you trim your toenails, make sure to cut them straight across to avoid ingrown nails. Don't forget to file the edges to prevent sharp corners that could lead to cuts or wounds. If you see an ingrown nail developing, skip the at-home treatment and seek professional care.
The role of regular check-ups
Maintaining your blood sugar levels within the recommended range goes hand-in-hand with foot care. High blood sugar can impair circulation and damage nerves, making your feet more susceptible to problems.
Just like you schedule regular appointments to manage your diabetes here at Walker Urgent & Family Care, make foot checkups a routine as well. This is a good chance to receive guidance on proper foot care and address concerns you might have.
That being said, if you suspect you have a foot ulcer developing, don’t wait for your next check up. The faster you receive treatment, the better chances you have at avoiding serious complications.
Diabetes management in the Myrtle Beach area
Your feet carry you through life, so it's vital to give them the attention they deserve, especially if you have diabetes. Prioritizing your foot care starts with managing your diabetes.
As family medicine physicians, we’re no strangers to managing chronic conditions like type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Dr. Walker uses a holistic approach to diabetes management that includes lifestyle changes (diet and exercise) and, if needed, medication.
Questions? Call 843-280-8333, or click here to schedule an appointment today.