11 tips to protect your feet and legs if you have diabetes

11 tips to protect your feet and legs if you have diabetes

From checking your feet for ulcers to keeping dry skin on your feet, good foot health is essential when you have diabetes . Use these tips to reduce the risk of infection and protect your feet from developing diabetic foot.

How does diabetes affect your feet and legs?

If you are struggling with diabetes , you may encounter foot and leg problems - two common complications of the disease. Diabetes (diabetes mellitus) puts you at greater risk of developing calluses, bumps, blisters and ulcers - and high blood sugar means these small cuts and changes can become gateways to potential infections. However, there are a few things you can do to help keep your feet in good condition, including wearing specialized footwear, getting regular foot exams, and doing gentle exercise.

Why does this complication occur? First, know that high blood sugar damages the nerves. Researchers aren't exactly sure how this damage occurs, but they think blood sugar can negatively affect cells and enzymes in the nervous system, according to the Joslin Diabetes Center. These damaged nerves can cause diabetic neuropathy, a condition where you lose sensation in your feet or hands .

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, neuropathy affects about 70 percent of people with diabetes, and its symptoms can lead to serious infections. After all, if you can't feel your feet, you won't be able to notice cuts, sores, or pain. And if you can't feel these irritations and wounds, they can become infected, and untreated infections can lead to gangrene, which in turn can lead to amputation.

Neuropathy is the cause of dry skin that many diabetics experience: damaged nerves in your legs can't receive impulses from the brain to sweat. Dry feet crack, allowing germs to enter the body. Nerve damage can also change the shape of your feet, making previously comfortable shoes difficult to fit into. This friction causes calluses and bunions (painful swelling on the big toe joint) that can break open (rub off) and allow germs to spread. In addition, diabetes causes the blood vessels to constrict and harden, which can make it difficult for the feet to fight infection.

According to the American Diabetes Association, you can safely use lotion to help manage these symptoms. But it's important to make sure you don't put it between your fingers, because the extra moisture in that tight space can encourage fungus to grow. In contrast, soaking your feet in diabetes is not a good idea. This can make already fragile skin even more fragile and susceptible to infection by making the skin too dry or too soft.

There are many other solutions to the painful, sensitive feet you may encounter in your struggle with diabetes . Read on for 11 tips to help you stay strong and confident in your fight against the disease.

Check your feet every day for cracks, wounds and sores

Nerve damage is a complication of diabetes that makes it difficult to feel when there are ulcers or cracks in the feet. "Patients with diabetes look for any discoloration, sores, or dry, cracked skin," says podiatrist Steven Tillett, M.D. in Portland, Oregon. Place a mirror on the floor to see under your feet, or ask a friend or relative for help if you can't see all parts of your feet clearly.

Do not use your feet to test hot water

When people with diabetes develop nerve damage or neuropathy, it can be difficult to tell if the bath water is too hot. "They won't realize they're actually exfoliating," explains Dr. Tillett. Getting into the bath first before checking the temperature can seriously injure your feet, as burns and blisters are an open door to infection. Before getting into the bath or shower, check the temperature of the water with your elbow.

Support your feet with diabetes-friendly footwear and socks

Buying shoes for people with diabetes requires a little more attention to detail than you may be used to. Tillett advises looking for shoes with more depth in the toe area, good coverage on both the top and bottom, and no seams inside the shoe that can irritate the feet. Also, look for seamless socks, preferably padded and made from cotton or another material that controls moisture.

Do not walk barefoot, whether you are indoors or outdoors

For most people, it makes sense to wear footwear with a quality upper to protect your feet, but even at home, going shoeless puts you at risk of minor cuts, scrapes and shards of glass. If you have neuropathy, you may not notice these dangerous lesions until they become infected. It is best to wear shoes at all times , even at home.

Keep your feet dry to reduce the risk of infection

Make sure that drying your feet is part of your hygiene routine. "The space between the fingers is very tight," Tillett says. "The skin becomes moist and prone to tearing, which leads to infection." You can avoid this by washing your feet and drying them thoroughly with a towel or by immediately removing wet or sweaty socks or shoes. As mentioned earlier, you can still use moisturizer to prevent dry, cracked skin—just avoid applying it between your toes.

See a podiatrist regularly to treat foot problems

Even seemingly harmless calluses can become serious problems if left untreated, Tillett notes. When building your diabetes health care team, consider including a podiatrist, a doctor who specializes in foot care, instead of going to the drugstore for an over-the-counter foot product—some products irritate your skin and can actually increase your risk of infection, even as they treat your bunion or callus. feet .

Stabilize and reduce weight on your feet with orthotic shoes

Because wearing the right shoes is so important, orthotic footwear is a great investment in protection and comfort. Shoes made specifically for people with diabetes are available in specialty stores and online, or you can visit your podiatrist.

Take it easy on your feet with mild-impact exercise

Exercise is good for people with diabetes , but what's the best kind? While exercise for diabetes is certainly not for everyone, keep in mind that many fitness classes and aerobics programs involve jumping, jumping, and jumping, which may not be good for your feet. This is especially true if you have neuropathy. Instead, look into activities like walking or swimming that don't stress your legs too much. Just make sure you have the right footwear for whatever activity you choose.

Quit smoking to improve circulation in your legs

The dangers of smoking run from head to toe. The chemicals in cigarette smoke damage and constrict your blood vessels, which means that if you smoke, your legs don't get enough blood, rich in nutrients and oxygen, to fight infection and keep them healthy. " Patients with diabetes already have risk factors that damage their blood vessels. It's never too late to quit," Tillett says.

Control your blood sugar to prevent diabetic neuropathy

"There is a direct correlation between blood sugar and nerve cell damage," Tillett says. Uncontrolled blood sugar can lead to neuropathy, and the better you can control your blood sugar, the healthier your feet will be for longer. Remember that if you already have an infection, high blood sugar can make it harder for your body to fight it.

Please contact your care team for further assistance

Your doctor and diabetes healthcare team are a great source of information if you need ideas and inspiration about taking care of your feet, quitting smoking or keeping your 'numbers' - weight, blood sugar and other things like blood pressure - in check. Of course, if you notice any changes in your legs or feet that worry you, it's a good idea to see your doctor before your next regularly scheduled visit.

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