Uncontrolled high blood sugar leads to permanent changes in the feet that puts all diabetics are at high risk for foot ulcers that take a long time or never heal, infections and amputations. These changes can lead to peripheral arterial disease (PAD) or poor blood flow to the feet, diabetic peripheral neuropathy or loss of feeling/loss of protective sensation (LOPS) to the feet, deformities or changes in the shape of the feet, damage to temperature control mechanisms leading to dry cracked skin and damages to the immune system making neutrophils ineffective and increasing risk of infections. But these changes do not have to happen to you. You can have healthy feet by following the tips below.
The most important habit you must practice to have healthy feet is achieve blood sugar control. This can be achieved by taking your medication tablets or insulin as prescribed. When blood sugar is under control the risk of infection and amputation is very low.
• Check your feet every day for cuts, redness, swelling, sores, blisters, corns, calluses, or any other change to the skin or nails. Use a mirror if you can’t see the bottom of your feet, or ask a family member to help.
• Wash your feet every day in warm (not hot) water. Don’t soak your feet. Dry your feet completely and apply lotion to the top and bottom – but not between your toes, which could lead to infection.
• Never go barefoot. Always wear shoes and socks or slippers, even inside, to avoid injury. Check that there aren’t any pebbles or other objects inside your shoes and that the lining is smooth.
• Wear shoes that fit well. For the best fit, try on new shoes at the end of the day when your feet tend to be largest. Break in your new shoes slowly – wear them for an hour or two a day at first until they’re completely comfortable. Always wear socks with your shoes.
• Trim your toenails straight across and gently smooth any sharp edges with a nail file. Have your foot doctor (podiatrist) trim your toenails if you can’t see or reach your feet.
• Don’t remove corns or calluses yourself, and especially don’t use over-the-counter products to remove them – they could burn your skin.
• Get your feet checked at every health care visit. Also, visit your foot doctor every year (more often if you have nerve damage) for a complete exam, which will include checking for feeling and blood flow in your feet.
• Keep the blood flowing. Put your feet up when you’re sitting, and wiggle your toes for a few minutes several times throughout the day.
• Choose feet-friendly activities like walking, riding a bike, or swimming. Check with your doctor about which activities are best for you and any you should avoid. Exercise such as walking for half hour can also assists with blood glucose control and improve blood flow to the feet.
When to see your doctor
Have your feet examined by a podiatrist (foot doctor) at least once per year. If you experience any of the following symptoms, don’t wait for your next appointment and see your foot doctor right away:
• Pain in your legs or cramping in your buttocks, thighs, or calves during physical activity.
• Tingling, burning, or pain in your feet.
• Loss of sense of touch or ability to feel heat or cold very well.
• A change in the shape of your feet over time.
• Loss of hair on your toes, feet, and lower legs.
• Dry, cracked skin on your feet.
• A change in the color and temperature of your feet.
• Thickened, yellow toenails.
• Fungus infections such as athlete’s foot between your toes.
• A blister, sore, ulcer, infected corn, or ingrown toenail.
Most people with diabetes can prevent serious foot complications. Regular care at home and going to all doctor’s appointments are your best bet for preventing foot problems (and stopping small problems from becoming serious ones).
• For more information visit www.everydayhealth.com or www.foothealthfacts.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org . To see a podiatrist visit Bahamas Foot Centre on Rosetta Street or call 325-2996 for an appointment or Bahamas Surgical Associates Centre on East Terrace Centreville or call 603-1814/15/16 for an appointment. In Grand Bahama visit Lucayan Medical Center on East Sunrise Highway or call 373-7400 for an appointment.