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Sep 16

5 Facts Your Foot Doctor Wants You To Know About Diabetes

The American Diabetes Association estimates that about 10 percent of the U.S. population has diabetes. While diabetes can affect your heart, kidneys and other organs, your feet also can suffer if you have this condition.  As a foot doctor, here are a few facts I want you to know about diabetes and diabetic foot care.

1. Diabetes Can Cause Nerve Damage

Diabetes can lead to a condition known as diabetic neuropathy. In layman’s terms, this is nerve damage caused by diabetes. Peripheral neuropathy, or nerve damage in the feet and legs, is quite common. A diabetic might experience tingling and numbness in their feet, as well as burning and general pain.

While this might seem uncomfortable and inconvenient, it’s far more serious than you might think. Permanent nerve damage can lead to an assortment of problems. This includes muscle damage and the overall numbness can make it difficult for a person to feel sores or cuts on the feet, which can become badly infected and lead to gangrene and even amputation.

2. Diabetics Need To Check & Clean Feet Daily

While everyone needs to clean and dry their feet carefully each day, this is especially important for people with diabetes. You need to examine each foot carefully to ensure that there are no cuts, scrapes, blisters or ulcers. Even issues that might seem unimportant such as an ingrown toenail can be more serious for people with diabetes.

With diabetes, the body’s immune system doesn’t function as well, and this means that it can take a long time for cuts to heal and they easily can become infected. For anyone, an infected cut can be serious, but for someone with a suppressed immune system, even a small infected cut can turn into a huge problem.

It’s also smart to feel your feet careful to determine if there are any warm areas. A warmer area on the foot could indicate that your foot is developing a blister or an ulcer, and you may need to contact your podiatrist, for an examination.

Once you’ve inspected, washed and thoroughly dried your feet, it can be smart to put some cornstarch or talcum powder between each toe to prevent moisture. Wear socks and shoes at all times. This keeps your feet as safe as possible from injury. It also is wise to check the inside of your shoe to ensure there’s no debris or rough areas. With foot numbness, your foot might not feel the presence of a tiny pebble and that pebble could rub against your foot and cause a blister to form.

Keeping your nails trimmed properly also is important, and you should inspect your nails for any signs of fungus. If you notice fungus, please call your foot doctor as soon as possible to talk about treatment options. We also don’t always recommend going to a nail salon for a pedicure. If you do go, take your own clippers and tools with you as this can help to prevent infections. Infections from nail salons are fairly common, and while this might not be as serious for someone with a strong immune system, it can be much more serious for people with diabetes.

3. Wear Supportive Shoes & Good Socks

Now, when a foot specialist says, “supportive shoes,” this is not a euphemism for ugly shoes. We simply mean that you need to wear shoes that properly support the foot throughout the day. Wearing high heels or flip flops is not going to give your foot the support that it needs. Your foot has hundreds of bones, muscles and tendons and all of these structures need proper support.

Athletic shoes can be a good choice, and there are many brands of shoes advertised as “walking shoes,” which also can be a great option. Make sure to try shoes on at the end of the day as our feet swell a bit throughout the day and you want shoes that can accommodate the largest foot size. If you have issues such as hammertoes or bunions, you might want to buy shoes in a wider width to accommodate these issues.

Sometimes, a person with diabetes will notice that their feet have changed shape. This is known as Charcot’s foot. Your foot doctor can create special inserts, or orthotics, to fit inside your shoe to accommodate these changes. Orthotics also can be helpful for many other foot issues, such as hammertoes.

When it comes to socks or nylons, choose seamless varieties as the seams can press against the foot and create blisters or sores. Always wear clean socks, as well, and if your shoes or socks are exposed to water, be sure to change out of them and put on dry socks and shoes as quickly as possible.

4. Don’t Put Off Calling Your Foot Doctor

In general, people put off calling the doctor for too long. You might think, “oh, it’s just a minor issue, I can handle it.” Truly, though, the sooner you call your foot doctor (or any doctor), the better. Minor issues are always easier to resolve, and the longer you wait, the more difficult it can be to fix a problem.

For instance, if you have a small cut that has just a mild infection, we can treat that easily and quickly. Wait a few days, and the problem can spiral out of control and cause a larger infection that can be far more serious, and even spread throughout your body. What could have been a 10-minute visit to the foot doctor, might end up with a hospital visit and possible amputation.

Any time you have foot pain that lasts more than a couple of days, it is wise to contact your foot doctor. At the very least, we can provide you with some advice over the phone that might resolve the issue or discuss if you need to come in for an exam. Foot problems usually only get better if you take steps to address the problem. Whether you have heel pain, a sore or ulcer, bunions, corns, plantar fasciitis or something else, please contact us sooner rather than later, especially if you have diabetes.

5. Changing Diet & Exercise Can Help

One of the best things that anyone can do, whether or not they have diabetes, is to make positive dietary changes and incorporate exercise into their daily routine. A proper diet can work wonders for people with diabetes and help to keep those blood sugars under control. The better you control your diabetes, the less likely you are to suffer from serious consequences and losing weight will make your feet much happier.

It is recommended that people with diabetes work with a certified nutritionist or dietician that specializes in diabetes nutrition. This professional can help you make the best possible choices to help keep your diet under control. If you opt not to use the services of a dietician, you should cut out junk foods, fried foods and foods high in sugar. Eat a healthy balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and lean meats. With the help of the internet, it’s not hard to find delicious diabetic-friendly meal options, and a healthy diet can make you feel better physically and mentally, as well as preventing complications.

When it comes to exercise, it’s often smart to set manageable goals. Maybe for the first week, you make it a goal to go on two, 10-minute walks per day. In the next week, make it two 15-minute walks. You also can consider activities such as swimming and yoga if you want to keep it low impact.

Many of us lead very sedentary lives, we sit at a desk all day, and it can be tough to fit in exercise. Set a timer on your phone and get up for five minutes every hour and move around. Do a few jumping jacks or go up and down the stairs a few times. This gets the blood flowing, warms the muscles and actually will help you focus more effectively once you sit down and get back to work. But whatever you can do to fit in some daily exercise will be a good step toward a healthier life, and that’s solid advice for all of us, whether we have diabetes or not. Of course, as a foot doctor, I don’t just focus on diabetic foot care, I am here to help with just about any foot, heel or ankle issue you may be having. I can help with bunions, corns, plantar fasciitis, Achilles issues and much more. We have offices in Costa Mesa and Rancho Santa Margarita for your convenience. Give one of our Orange County podiatry offices a call today and we will do our best to make your feet as happy as possible.