When you or your spouse is diagnosed with diabetes you may think that you just need to focus on a healthy diet, keeping your blood sugar levels where they should be and monitoring your insulin. However, you really need to make sure that you have regular checkups with a podiatrist, a foot doctor.
How does diabetes affect feet?
Diabetes can affect your feet in two ways. First, it can damage the nerves in your feet. This is called diabetic neuropathy, and it means that you lose feeling in your foot. The nerve sensors that tell your brain if your foot has a cut, a burn, or an ingrown toenail simply don't work anymore.
The second problem is that diabetes can cause peripheral vascular disease, which reduces blood flow. Healthy blood flow is necessary for healing any wounds on your feet. Poor flow increases your chance for ulcers or gangrene occurring on wounds.
What can you do?
You need to inspect your feet every day. Check for sores, dry or cracked skin, or changes in color. Use a mirror to see the bottom of your foot or have your spouse check that portion of your foot.
Buy shoes that are comfortable and fit you well. Don't go for shoes that are too tight just because they look nice. Your feet will stay healthier if you use shoes that have a large toe box. Many podiatrists recommend that you wear shoes that are made from either canvas or leather. However, make sure that you slowly break the shoes in; you don't want your new shoes to give you blisters.
Keep your feet dry. Make sure that the area between your toes is dry before you put your socks on after a shower. Moisture can lead to infection.
What should you stay away from?
You need to be very careful around hot tubs. If your feet have developed neuropathy, you won't be able to tell if the hot tub is too hot. Some patients with diabetes have burned their feet simply because of this problem. Don't trust your hands when trying to test the water temperature; the nerve endings there can be damaged too.
Don't go barefoot! Wear shoes even when you are inside your home to protect your feet. You may not be able to feel splinters or small pieces of glass becoming imbedded in your feet. Those shards can become infected and lead to greater problems. If you have any questions, contact a foot doctor.