Diabetes Mellitus (DM) is a metabolic disease characterized by increasing sugar levels due to defects in insulin secretion, action or both. Symptoms include increased thirst and hunger, frequent urination, weight loss or gain, blurred vision and wounds that heal slowly. The estimated prevalence of Diabetes in Canada is expected to rise to 5 million or 12.1% of the population (currently 3.4 million)by 2025 (Diabetes Canada, 2017). It is the leading cause of blindness, end stage renal disease (ESRD) and non-traumatic amputation. Often overlooked, caring for your feet is especially important when you are diabetic. It is very common for individuals with diabetes to have an increased risk of infections and foot complications. What is good to know is that almost all, if not most complications are very manageable and preventable.
How to take care of your diabetic foot?
Being able to identify early symptoms due to Diabetes can reduce the severity of consequences.
Increased sugar levels can have an effect on blood flow by decreasing supply to distal parts of your body, specifically the feet. Burning pain, tingling and numbness in your feet can indicate signs of severe diabetic complications. Neuropathy occurs as a result of increasing sugar levels acting as shards of glass, damaging nerves. The longest nerves are affected first and are more pronounced in the feet or hands. When your nerves are not working correctly, you may not be able to feel the pain of any cut, injury or blister. The risk of digital contractures, ulcerations, amputation is increased.
Daily foot examinations
Make it a habit to regularly check your foot for any new signs of cuts or blisters. If it is hard to see the bottom/ sole of your feet, try placing a mirror on the floor or against the wall to get a clear picture. While it is important to wash your feet daily, it is equally important to dry your feet afterwards, especially between the toes. Some signs of infection to look out for include but are not limited to redness, an increase in temperature, swelling and pain.
Foot and nail care
If you have diabetes, you are more likely to have dry skin. Thus, it is very common for fissures or breaks in skin to occur, particularly in the heels. It is recommended that you apply emollients daily. Some examples of urea-based emollients include Dermal Therapy and Eucerin. Take extra caution when you cut your toe-nails and that you are cutting in a straight direction and filing the corners. If you find it difficult to cut safely, please book an appointment with our Registered Chiropodist and they can take care of that for you.
When you are looking for footwear to purchase, it is important to keep a few things in mind. You should look for one with minimal seams. In addition, a shoe with a deep and wide toe box would prevent the constriction of toes. One key component to wearing footwear is checking your shoe for any foreign items before putting it on. You will be surprised what you can find in there. Well-padded white socks in a cotton-based material as opposed to dark colors are recommended to be able to visually tell if there are any new breaks in skin. Do not wear socks with an inside seam or elastic band at top, and do change them daily.
Controlling sugar levels
While it is important to identify new changes, we also want to make sure we are working to prevent these changes from happening in the first place. Foods high in sugar are only increasing around us, however, excessive sugar intake can fasten the progression of symptoms related to diabetes. It is important to augment your diet with food rich in nutrients and low in sugar, fat and calories. Equally important to diet is ensuring that you are staying active. Try to aim to move your body at least 30 minutes a day. Wiggle your toes and move your feet around many times a day to keep your blood flowing.
When to get your feet checked
Complications of diabetes can present differently on the feet. While harmless for most populations, even a minor change can become serious in people with diabetes. Annual preventative screenings are recommended. A Registered Chiropodist can recognize foot problems and help you manage them. Please visit our website to book an appointment and see what we can do for you.
References: (Guide to Diabetic CareDiabetes Canada. Diabetes statistics in Canada. 2017.Available from:http://www.diabetes.ca/how-you-can-help/advocate/why-federal-leadership-is-essential/diabetes-statistics-in-canada