Diabetes is a chronic disease affecting blood sugar (glucose) and insulin. It has been diagnosed in approximately 29.1 million people in the United States – more than 9% of the population. Every year 1.7 million new cases of diabetes are diagnosed, and as many as 8.1 million people are estimated to have diabetes but remain undiagnosed.
There are three main types of diabetes – type I, type II, and gestational.
How does diabetes affect my feet?
Diabetes weakens your immune system, making it more difficult for your body to fight off infections, which can, in turn, damage your nervous system. This damage can affect the ability to feel sensations in your feet. Damage to your nervous system can affect your feet’s ability to produce sweat and other natural oils that keep the skin lubricated. Without proper lubrication, the skin, bones, and joints of the foot can become injured.
Sometimes, those with diabetes do not notice sores or injuries to their feet until it is too late. It is important to maintain proper foot health and seek treatment immediately when an injury is present. Poorly fitting shoes are the number one cause of foot injury when it comes to diabetes. Red spots, sores, blisters, corns, calluses, or any persistent pain should be taken seriously, and properly fitting footwear (along with orthotics) should be worn.
You may also be at risk for nerve damage in the feet if your diabetes has been poorly managed. This may leave you with decreased feeling in the feet, putting you at higher risk of injury. If left untreated or unmanaged, foot problems can lead to problems like losing a toe, foot, or leg. Keeping your diabetes well managed and preventing injury is the key to maintaining proper foot health.
What preventative steps can I take?
In addition to managing your diabetes, there are some steps you can take to help further protect your feet from injury and infection. It is important to wash and check your feet daily and address any issues immediately to avoid any further problems. Here are some preventative steps you can take:
- Keep your skin well moisturized, soft, and smooth.
- Gently smooth corns and calluses that may be on your feet.
- Trim your toenails straight across on a regular basis. If you are unable to reach your feet or do this safely, ask your podiatrist or a loved one to help you.
- Always wear shoes and socks, even when indoors. Unprotected feet can lead to increased risk of injury.
- Protect your feet from hot and cold temperatures. Wear socks that will keep your feet warm.
- Make sure you are keeping the blood flowing to your feet.
If you notice any abnormalities in your feet, it is important to bring them to the attention of your podiatrist immediately. While diabetic foot can become a serious problem, it can be prevented. Practicing these preventative measures, maintaining good hygiene practices, and managing your blood sugar levels are all essential to keeping your feet healthy.
For more information about diabetic foot and how we can help you, contact Zimmermann Podiatry today.