If you have diabetes, your primary doctor will help you control your blood sugar with medications and other means. But one of the areas of your health you may not receive help with is your feet. Diabetes can potentially cause many problems for your feet over time, including poor circulation and skin ulcers.
You can protect your feet from the damaging effects of high blood sugar by making foot care a critical part of your nightly routine. By doing so, you can monitor the skin on your feet, between your toes and on your ankles for open wounds (ulcers) and dryness.
Here's why you should add foot care to your routine every night and what you can do if you see a problem in your feet during your care.
Why Add Foot Care to Your Nightly Routine
Nightly foot care can help you find small problems in your feet, toes and ankles before they become severe infections. Diabetes damages the blood vessels and nerves in your body. When damage occurs in your feet, legs and ankles, it can cause poor circulation. Poor blood flow may not allow your tissues to heal properly if you nick, cut or bruise your skin.
In addition, some people experience nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy) if their blood sugar raises too much. Your nerves are sensory tissues that transmit pain, discomfort and changes in body temperature to your brain. If you bruise a toe, burn your ankle or cut the bottom of your foot, you might not feel any pain or discomfort in the wound.
Both of the problems above can cause skin ulcers or wounds. Diabetic wounds are often slow to heal. In a number of cases, wounds can go unnoticed for long periods of time or until they become severely infected. Diabetic ulcers can spread to the tissues below your skin, including your muscles and bones.
Now that you know why it's important to examine your feet every night, learn how you can do below.
How to Perform Your Foot Care
Your nightly routine should include a detailed inspection of every area on your feet, including between each toe. Look for dry skin that appears flaky or reddened, as well as unhealed cuts, abrasions and nicks. Some injuries can hide in the folds of your skin, so check behind your toes and along the creases on your soles.
Also, examine your heels and ankles for bruising or discoloration. Bruising may indicate tissue damage below the skin. Although bruising can cause pain or some type of discomfort, your diabetes may not allow you to feel it.
Finally, moisturize your skin with a light coconut oil or diabetic foot cream after each inspection. Try to avoid using essential oils unless you’re sure you know what to do—if you use essential oils incorrectly, you can irritate your skin.
If you notice any problems with your feet, ankles, toes and other areas of the lower body during your care, seek care from a podiatrist. Unhealed or untreated wounds and other skin injuries can cause significant problems for you. If the injuries damage your tissues too much, they can potentially lead to amputation, or the surgical removal of a limb.
A podiatrist can do several things, including cleaning your wounds. A cleaning can help keep the infection from spreading below your skin. Sometimes, foot doctors place medicated dressings on wounds to help them heal. You may need to stay off your feet until your wounds heal, so be aware of this when you seek treatment.
If your wounds spread or damage the tissues below your skin, a podiatrist may offer foot surgery to repair the damage. Surgery may repair damaged nerves, remove infected bone tissue, or correct deformities. A doctor can go into greater detail about foot surgery with you during your consultation.
To learn more about managing your feet with diabetes, schedule an appointment with the experts at East Village Foot & Ankle Surgeons today.