Proper foot care is important for everyone, but it is especially important for diabetics. Due to circulation issues, diabetic feet tend to be more susceptible to injury—and often those injuries can go undetected. For this reason, it’s a good idea for these individuals to have a consistent relationship with a podiatrist regardless of whether or not they are experiencing pain.
Nerve Damage in Diabetes
It seems only natural to go to the doctor when you’re experiencing pain. Many of us would not consider going to a specialist like a podiatrist until we are dealing with significant pain or injury. Unfortunately for diabetics, nerve damage is one of the common side effects of their condition—and this can make proper treatment of injuries difficult.
This nerve damage is called neuropathy, and its most common symptom is numbness. It is considered to be one of the more frequent complications of living with long-term diabetes, and it’s caused by poor blood sugar control over an extended period of time. While all of our nerves can be affected by high sugars, the longest nerves—the ones that extend from spine to toe—tend to be the most impacted. This is why you will experience neuropathy in your feet and legs before your hands or arms.
The Risk of Neuropathy Injury
Our feet take a beating. Between walking, exercising, and potentially ill-fitting footwear, our feet endure more hits and strains than any other part of our body. In a healthy individual, a cut or blister on the foot isn’t usually a big deal, but it can turn into a severe issue for a person with neuropathy.
Diabetic neuropathy causes numbness, which in turn can lead to obliviousness to injury. Without pain, we aren’t alerted to anything being wrong. But diabetes can cause quickly cause a lot of issues. Poorly controlled blood sugar can lead to dried-out skin, which in turn causes calluses or even ulcers on your feet. Combine this with the numbing lack of circulation and you just might find yourself walking around on an injury you don’t even know you have. Since the numbness prevents you from being aware of an issue, this can allow a minor injury to turn into a more serious infection.
Daily self-care is essential to make sure your diabetes stays in check and injuries are avoided. Follow all maintenance plans followed by your doctor, including proper diet and timed insulin. Then, work a self-examination of your feet into your daily routine.
In the morning, before bedtime, and also anytime you take your shoes off, take a few moments to look over your feet. Check for any signs of strain—chafing, blistering, cuts, or bruises. You might want to use a mirror to help you check the areas that are hard to see.
If you notice any irregularities, write down what you see and the date you noticed it. Some find it helpful to also take a photo. Practice at-home treatment and spend as much time off your feet as you can. Pay close attention to the irregularity and observe it for any changes or progressions in the coming days.
Finally, know when it’s time to see a podiatrist. As a general rule, you should make an appointment if you’re experiencing any of the following:
- Pain in your legs or thighs, even if you don’t have sensation in your feet
- A change in foot shape
- Severely dry or cracked skin on your feet
- Any change in skin color or temperature to the touch
- Thickened or yellowing toenails
- Blisters, sores, ulcers, corns, or ingrown toenails
- Any evidence of a fungal infection like athlete’s foot
It’s also a great idea to visit a podiatrist several times a year even if you do not experience any issues. The professionals at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists are able to provide thorough foot examinations and preventative measures that can help a diabetic avoid severe injury.
Contact us today to schedule your first appointment and work toward maintaining proper foot health. You deserve the assurance of knowing you’re doing everything you can to protect this essential body part from the difficult risks of diabetes.