The American Diabetes Association reports that one of the main reasons diabetics end up seeking professional medical treatment is due to experiencing nerve damage and poor circulation. Most commonly, these issues affect the feet.
At Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists, we recommend that diabetics examine their feet each day and promptly seek treatment if they spot any areas of concern. This proactive approach to diabetic foot care reduces the risk of serious complications related to high blood sugar.
How Diabetes Affects the Feet
Diabetes damages the blood vessels throughout the body, including the feet. With slowed blood flow due to the damage, a condition associated with nerve damage (or loss of sensation or pain) called neuropathy can occur. Due to these factors, diabetics won’t always feel pain as intensely as a healthy individual.
Since pain is our body’s way of alerting us of distress, the absence of pain can lead to health problems being ignored or overlooked. This is a concerning situation for the diabetic, since another symptom of diabetes is slower healing. Not only will a diabetic potentially not discover an infection or injury in its early stages due to a lack of sensation, but it will take markedly longer for that individual to recover once the issue is discovered.
Performing daily foot self-exams is an effective aid in the prevention of infection and injury. Your feet are vulnerable to injury due to daily use and impact from walking, running, etc. They are also furthest from the heart, meaning they take the brunt of any circulatory damage caused by poor blood sugar control.
How to Perform a Diabetic Foot Self-Exam
Get into the habit of performing a foot exam daily. If you are able, commit to also giving your feet a quick look over in the evening, along with any time you remove your shoes. During the exam, you should be looking for any signs of strain from pressure on the feet, redness, swelling, and any broken skin.
First, make sure your feet are clean. For this reason, a great time to do your morning self-exam is immediately after a bath or shower. After your feet have been cleaned and dried, settle into a comfortable position in a chair or on your bed. Your self-exam space should also have good lighting so you can see your feet as clearly as possible.
Next, check the bottom of your feet. Position yourself so you can get a clear view, or ask a friend or family member to check for you if you are unable. Diabetic injury can occur on the bottom of the feet, and if you tend to have flat feet, your chance of damage is increased. You can check the bottom of your feet thoroughly by rotating your ankle. You can also use a mirror to view the parts of your foot you cannot see.
After you have checked the bottom of your feet, examine the rest of the foot. Pay close attention to the balls of your feet, as well as between the toes and arch. If you also perform self-exams in the evening and after the removal of your shoes, you will want to focus on these areas where pressure is placed when you’re walking.
During the entire exam, be on the lookout for any signs of stress or injury. This includes bumps or skin irregularities on the soles of the feet, rough or cracked skin on the heels, or any blisters between the toes. Feel your entire foot for any change in texture, shape, or even temperature. You can also compare both feet in a mirror to see if there is any variation between the two.
A complete inventory of what to look for during a foot self-exam may include:
- Bunions – a change in the alignment of your toe joint
- Calluses – thickened skin that may appear cracked
- Corns – bone placing pressure against the skin
- Ingrown toenails – especially if the tissue around the toenail appears infected
- Dry skin – especially skin that is cracked or appears infected
- Ulcer – an open wound as a result of an injury that has been left undetected
- Unusual foot odor
- Changes in temperature
- Variations in skin color
- Swelling not only in the foot, but also the ankle area
- Leg pain
Some people also find it helpful to keep a foot diary. Make it a habit to write down any issues you detect. In some cases, you may even want to take a photo of the problem area. You can then bring this log with you into any medical appointment without having to worry about recollecting specific dates or symptoms.
Our Experienced Podiatrists Are Here to Help
You should contact a doctor immediately if you notice any of the following:
- Symptoms of muscle or bone injuries
- Swelling or tender spots
- Cracks or fissures that appear to be infected
When it’s time to seek medical attention, make an appointment with an experienced podiatrist. A general practitioner will always be helpful, but since diabetic foot injury can be such a serious thing, it is always wiser to see a specialist like a podiatrist that can help you find solutions immediately.
If your diabetes is severe, or you do not live with someone who is able to assist you with regular foot checks, you can reach out to a podiatrist to schedule regular in-office exams. While this may seem like an inconvenience, it is nothing compared to the complications that can occur when diabetic foot injuries go unchecked. Severe complications include serious infection and even potentially amputation.
If you’re looking for a quality podiatrist to build a relationship with, the experts at Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists are ready and waiting to help. Our team has years of experience in treating a variety of foot injuries, including special issues related to diabetes. Contact us today to make an in-office or telemedicine appointment. You may also wish to request our free book, Diabetes and Your Feet.