Diabetes is a common condition affecting millions of Americans every day. As of 2018, The American Diabetes Association reported that 10% of the American population had a diagnosis of diabetes, with an estimated 1.5 million new diagnoses each year. While diabetes is typically thought of as a blood sugar issue, the long-term effects are known to significantly affect other parts of the body, in particular your feet.
For example, long-term lack of blood sugar control will slowly begin to diminish the sensation in your feet, leading to numbness; this is called neuropathy. Diabetes also increases the risk of peripheral arterial disease, which is the narrowing of blood flow to your limbs. These lead to even more serious problems including foot ulcers, infections, amputations or even death.
Before any of these scenarios occur, there are some simple steps you can take from your home to significantly decrease your risk of developing these complications.
Wearing Diabetic Shoes And Inserts
When a diabetic patient has numbness, decreased blood flow or a history of amputation, most insurance plans approve of one pair of diabetic shoes and inserts annually. Insurance plans typically cover diabetic shoes because they are known to improve the prevention of future wounds or amputations. The difference between a diabetic insert and the type of insert you can buy in stores is that diabetic inserts are specifically molded to the patient’s foot, and they are made with a specialized material to decrease pressure that can potentially lead to wounds in the future. In addition, diabetic shoes cater to the appropriate depth and width a patient needs, which is measured at the time of insert casting.
Wearing Shoes At All Times
This may be the most important advice for proper diabetic foot care. According to the American Diabetic Association, almost 50% of diabetic patients are unaware of the numbness present to their feet. This results in injuries to the foot, such as stepping on a sharp object like glass, to go unnoticed by some diabetic patients. While this may seem unbelievable to many, it is this type of injury we see in our office when it is too late, and the injury has already occurred. These types of injuries may be prevented by wearing protective shoes at all times, including while walking around the house.
Check Your Feet Daily
While wearing shoes is the most effective way to decrease the chances of a diabetic foot injury, sometimes other types of injuries can occur. Catching these injuries sooner rather than later makes all the difference. Let’s say on your evening stroll you walked by a house undergoing construction and a nail penetrated the bottom of your shoe.
While individuals without neuropathy would notice this immediately, a diabetic with foot numbness may not feel this at all. This is why checking your feet daily is so important. Simple ways to do this can be wearing light-colored socks so that when you take them off at night you can examine for signs of blood, indicating an injury. Also assessing the skin on the bottom of your feet nightly is a good habit to begin as soon as possible.
Regular Checkups With Your Podiatrist
While this is not something that can be done from home, it holds just as much importance for preventative care. Foot doctors are specifically trained to monitor changes to your feet’s sensation, blood flow and risk factors that can contribute to the chance of wounds. Foot doctors are also the most common place a diabetic patient learns of numbness or blood flow changes to their feet that they were not aware of before. It is for this reason that routine foot check-ups from the very beginning of your diabetes diagnosis is of utmost importance.
Reporting Any Skin Injuries To Your Podiatrist Immediately
Regardless of all the foot maintenance listed above, accidents still happen. Wound healing for a diabetic patient is very different from a non-diabetic patient. While a small cut will likely heal for others, a small cut for a diabetic can lead to serious issues such as wounds and infections. Because of the speed at which an injury to the skin on the foot can worsen, it is imperative that a diabetic patient immediately contact their foot doctor and inform them of any noticeable changes or injuries to their feet. An appointment will be made to assess the severity of the issue and treat accordingly.
Diabetes can be a scary diagnosis and a huge lifestyle change; however, with these small adjustments in addition to your blood sugar management from home, foot complications do not have to be a concern for the near future. If you or someone you know is diagnosed with diabetes and have not had a foot checkup recently or at all, request an appointment or give us a call at Foot & Ankle Associates of North Texas and let us take care of you!