Don’t Slack on Your Diabetic Foot Care
One hundred thousand.
That’s the number of Americans, roughly speaking, who will need to get all or part of a foot or leg amputated this year due to complications from diabetes—usually an infected ulcer. And recent studies suggest that number may be growing.
Do you want to know what the saddest and most frustrating thing is about that statistic? Almost every single one of those amputations was, at one point, preventable. And it wouldn’t have taken a Herculean effort, either. A few simple, everyday habits and regular checkups with a podiatrist would have been all that was required.
If you have diabetes, it’s time to get serious about diabetic foot care—even if you don’t notice any symptoms yet. Complications have a way of creeping up on you slowly, until it’s too late to do anything about the pain, numbness, and loss of mobility and independence.
Do you have a diabetic foot care plan?
Why You Need to Start Now
We’ve already told you what can happen if you ignore diabetic foot care—and alluded to why. But let’s spell it out.
The short answer is that consistently elevated blood sugar levels are a slow-acting toxin that poisons and destroys the healthy functioning of organs and tissues throughout your body.
As far as the feet are concerned, there are two effects that are particularly destructive. One is progressive nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy). Burning, stabbing, or shocking pain tends to get worse and worse over time, until it’s replaced by complete numbness. The other is poor circulation, which (among other things) impairs your body’s ability to close wounds, repair injured tissue, and fight off infections.
Together, these conditions leave you far less able to detect and deal with foot problems. Blisters, cuts, and even more serious wounds or injuries may go unnoticed for hours or days—and even “small” problems are far more likely to develop into big ones.
Because these conditions tend to progress very slowly, over months or even years, you may tend to not notice them or shrug them off at first. If you wait until the symptoms actually start bothering you, it may already be far too late to change course.
But if you build those healthy habits now, you have a great chance from stopping the worst potential complications before they ever happen. And even if you already have symptoms, you can still greatly improve your situation in the short, medium, and long term.
That’s why you need to start now—regardless of where you’re currently at in your journey with diabetes.
Starting Your Diabetic Foot Care Plan
The first thing you should do, if you don’t already have a diabetic foot care plan in place, is schedule a time to see one of the doctors at Burlington County Foot & Ankle Associates.
We urge everyone with diabetes to seek a podiatric evaluation at least once per year, even if no obvious symptoms are present. (Those with a history of foot problems may require more frequent check-in.)
Each time we see you, we’ll check for the early warning signs of more serious complications, such as neuropathy. We’ll also help you stay on top of treating any foot issues that may increase your risk of diabetic complications, including things like ingrown toenails, cracked skin, bunions, corns, and others.
Finally, we’ll help you build a diabetic foot care plan and teach you the habits you need to develop to keep your feet as safe as possible.
What Does a Typical Diabetic Foot Care Plan Look Like?
The specific recommendations, treatments, and preventative care options we provide will depend on your specific needs. However, here are the basics you can expect. (Don’t worry—it isn’t difficult!)
- Give yourself a 5-minute foot check every day. Since your nerves may not be sending the right signals to your brain, it’s important that you examine your feet for problems every day, with your eyes and your hands. Any worrying concerns that do not improve within a couple of days should be reported to us.
- Manage your blood sugar. A healthy diet, regular exercise, and checking your sugar at regular intervals are the key components of this. If you’re not sure what to do, we strongly recommend you check in with your GP.
- Wash feet with warm (not hot) water every day. Make sure you test the water temperature with a thermometer or with a part of your body that is less affected by nerve damage. (Elbows work the best.) Thoroughly pat dry afterward.
- Moisturize your feet daily. This helps you avoid uncomfortable and painful dry skin and heel fissures (which, if serious, can lead to bleeding and infection).
- Keep your nails neatly trimmed. Don’t cut too short, and don’t round the corners in. Both can increase your risk of ingrown toenails.
- Never go barefoot—even indoors. We recommend socks and shoes, and if appropriate a pair of slippers at home. This will protect your feet from accidental injuries. If socks or shoes get damp, switch into a dry pair as soon as possible.
- Wear loose, clean socks to bed. They’ll help keep your feet warm.
Depending on our examination and our discussions with you at your checkup, we may recommend further preventative measures such as:
- Diabetic socks. They are made with features that are helpful for people with diabetes, such as breathable fabrics, seamless construction, no elastic, and/or extra padding under the sole.
- Diabetic shoes. These are built with a little extra depth to accommodate custom orthotics, as well as other features designed to help reduce shock, shear, and friction against the feet.
- Custom orthotics. They can greatly reduce ulcer-causing pressure on the feet, as well as correct any biomechanical issues contributing to pain or foot deformities.
- Laser therapy. Our MLS laser has proven effective in helping alleviate foot pain, slowing the progression of neuropathy, and helping wounds and ulcers close and heal more quickly.
And of course, if you ever notice a problem during your self-exams, or experience any kind of foot pain or discomfort, you should come to us right away for analysis and treatment. Our comprehensive medical services for feet and ankles include neuropathy treatments, advanced wound care techniques, and much more.
All this information may seem overwhelming at first, but it really isn’t—with just a little practice, the habits will become second nature, and you’ll have us helping you along the way, too.
But you have to make the first move. If you’re ready to get serious about protecting your feet and building a diabetic foot care plan, give Burlington County Foot & Ankle Associates a call today at (609) 714-0052. Or simply fill out our online contact form to have a member of our staff reach out to you.