If you live with diabetes, you know how crucial it is to take care of every single aspect of your health. This, of course, includes looking after your feet. Here is why and how you should care for your feet.
Diabetes is a chronic illness defined by an elevated blood glucose level (sugar level in the blood). This is known as hyperglycemia. Frequent and prolonged exposure to hyperglycemia causes long-term damage to the body, which explains the onset of common complications of diabetes.
Among these complications, neuropathy and arteriopathy increase the risk of problems affecting legs and feet in people with diabetes. Neuropathy (disease of the nervous system) causes insensitivity to pain, while arteriopathy (disease of the arteries) leads to insufficient blood flow, slowing down wound healing and increasing the risk of infection.
As a result, people with diabetes can have an injury without realizing it. A small cut on a foot can go unnoticed, get infected, spread and even cause necrosis (death) of the affected tissue. This tissue will then need to be amputated.
Good to know!
The risk of amputation in people with diabetes is approximately fifteen to twenty times greater than in non-diabetics.
Taking small steps towards healthy feet
To prevent major complications, you need to make regular foot care part of your everyday routine.
- Carefully wash your feet on a daily basis and dry them well, especially between the toes.
- Apply a thin coat of unscented moisturizer to your feet if you have dry skin.
- Examine your feet every day to quickly detect and treat any cuts, scrapes or other injuries. Use a mirror if needed.
- If you detect a minor injury, wash it immediately with a sterile saline solution or soap and water, then apply a dry dressing. Inspect the wound regularly to quickly detect signs of infection (redness, fluid discharge, swelling, pain, heat). Your pharmacist can advise you on proper treatments of a minor injury. Consult a doctor or a podiatrist (specialist in foot health) right away if you see any signs of infection.
- Do not walk barefoot, even at home.
- File your nails (straight across, not curved) instead of trimming them. Your nails should not be shorter than your toes.
- To treat calluses and corns, use a wet pumice stone on damp skin. Do not use an exfoliating file, sharp instrument or products with salicylic acid. Always file the pumice stone in the same direction (avoid back and forth movements).
- Wear proper fitting footwear (rounded tip, 5 cm heel or lower, made of material that breathes) and cotton stockings or socks to reduce the risk of blisters, calluses and corns. To ensure your new shoes are as comfortable as possible right away, shop at the end of the day, when feet tend to be more swollen.
- Have your doctor examine your feet at every appointment. You may even consider a routine visit with your podiatrist annually.
In an effort to reduce the risk of complications, it is recommended to lead a healthy and smoke-free lifestyle. If you are considering quitting smoking, consult your family pharmacist.
Certain foot care products sold over the counter may not be suitable for people with diabetes. Always consult your family pharmacist before you use such products. There are also many other non-pharmacological measures (e.g. pumice stones, insoles, socks) to ease and prevent common foot problems. Just ask your pharmacist!