Being diagnosed with diabetes means adapting to a whole new way of living. And of course finding a way to make life as easy as possible without having to deal with the complications that diabetes can cause. A known phenomenon is the so-called ‘diabetes foot’. Say what? This refers to the fact that many people who deal with diabetes have a variety of foot problems.
When trying to avoid health complications one of the keys is to get familiar with the possible risks and recognizing them in an early stage. In this article we will provide you with some expert knowledge about diabetes and foot problems, and how to tackle them.
Foot problems and complications
Having diabetes can be associated with having foot problems, since it can cause a variety of conditions such as nerve damage and poor circulation that affect the feet. But what do these complications entail, how are they caused and how can you prevent them from occurring? Let’s dive deeper into this!
In this article (scroll down to get our top 10 tips!):
- Peripheral vascular disease
- How can I fix diabetes foot problems?
A common foot issue that may occur when having diabetes is diabetic neuropathy. We speak of neuropathy when the nervous system gets damaged or is dysfunctioning, which can lead to numbness, tingling, muscle weakness and pain in a specific part of the body. There are three types of neuropathy that affect three different types of nerves: sensory neuropathy, autonomic neuropathy and motor neuropathy.
Sensory nerves provide the body with the ability to receive information of external stimuli such as temperature, pain, pressure, vibration and position of the foot. When suffering from sensory neuropathy these nerves lose this ability and fail to perceive that shoes are too tight or that water is too warm. This type of neuropathy usually starts at the extremities, tips of toes or fingers.
Signs of sensory neuropathy
- loss of sense
- increasing problems with balance
Autonomic nerves control functions in the body that are not under conscious control, such as sweating. This type of neuropathy can also affect the blood flow in the feet, which can result in blood veins losing their ability to function properly.
Signs of autonomic neuropathy
- sweating more
- dry skin and loss of skin elasticity
- warmer swollen feet with dilated veins
Motor nerves control movements of the body through muscles. When suffering from this type of neuropathy it can lead to reduced function of the muscles.
Signs of motor neuropathy
- less muscle power and control over movement
- wasting of muscles (atrophy)
- alteration in the shape of the foot, leading to deformation
Another issue that is associated with diabetic neuropathy is charcot foot. Signs of this condition are redness and swelling of the foot. This health complication results in destruction of joints, bones and soft tissue. Which can lead to deformation and sagging of the foot, which causes difficulties when walking.
Peripheral vascular disease
A complication that is more common to occur with advancing age and with a long duration of having diabetes is poor circulation of blood in the body. Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a disorder that causes the blood vessels to narrow, block or spasm, resulting in a poor blood circulation. Due to the reduced blood flow to the legs and feet a variety of discomforts and complications can occur, at first on an irregular basis.
Signs of peripheral vascular disease
- cramp in legs and feet
- cold feet
- numb feet
- dry skin
- pale blue skin (in case of less pigmentation)
- slow healing wounds
- reduced hair growth on legs and feet
- erectile dysfunction (impotence)
Due to the high blood glucose levels that people with diabetes have, the immune system and bacteria are impaired. As a result the body is more vulnerable to infections. Foot ulcers can for example get seriously infected.
How can I fix diabetes foot problems?
The main solution to avoid foot problems when having diabetes is minimizing the risks by having good control of blood glucose, blood fats and blood pressure. See how Hedia can help you manage this with its carb and insulin recommendations (and much more). Download Hedia at the App Store or Google Play!
But even when foot problems do occur, rapid action will prevent any serious outcome. So it is always good to work with some good handson tips and tricks. Here we go!
10 Tips for diabetes foot problems
Tip 1 – Take care of your feet!
Do not walk on bare feet and wear good shoes. Make sure that your shoes do not pinch or cause pressure points. Measure your feet and buy new shoes at the end of the day, when your feet are ‘bigger’ than in the morning. Shoes should fit comfortably right away.
Tip 2 – Good pedicure
Do not cut nails too straight or too short to prevent ingrown nails, small wounds or damages to the skin. Wash your feet daily with luke water and dry them with a soft towel. Make sure to moisturize your feet when they tend to get dry to keep your skin in good condition. Don’t put cream between your toes.
Tip 3 – Drink with cautious
If you already suffer from neuropathy, be cautious with the use of alcohol since it may increase pain and make the condition worse.
Tip 4 – Quit smoking!
What does this have to do with diabetes, you might ask. Smoking causes tissue damage and furthermore, neuropathy develops more frequently and progresses more quickly when smoking. Stopping smoking can also reduce other health risks that people with diabetes are exposed to, such as nephropathy.
Tip 5 – No foot baths
Do not take any foot baths longer than 5 minutes. Bathing in water for too long causes the skin to become too soft and extra vulnerable to wounds and infections. Do not use any harsh products in the bath water. Always rinse your feet with clean water afterwards. If you have any wounds on your feet, then it’s unfortunately not the right time for a foot bath.
Tip 6 – Check and check again
Due to a loss of sensation in your feet, you can start walking differently without noticing. This can lead to deformation of your feet or pressure point, resulting in calluses under which infections can occur without you noticing.
Check your feet (also the surface) regularly for (small) wounds, redness, swelling, increasing warmth, discoloration, smell pain or deformations. These can be warnings for a foot infection. Better be safe than sorry, right?
Tip 7 – Don’t try this at home
Do not experiment with treating your feet yourself in case of wounds, blisters, callus, clavuses, warts or thelike. Let a medical specialist look at wounds or other spots, even if they are small. It is better to treat complications in an early stage to prevent serious conditions. A medic can make sure that you get the right treatment and the right time.
Tip 8 – Keep it moving!
Staying active improves the circulation of blood in the body and can help with possible weight loss. A podiatrist can help you find the perfect shoes for walking, hiking and working out!
Tip 9 – Be gentle to your feet
Always check water temperatures with your elbows or a thermometer. Due to a lack of sensation the nerves in the feet might not register if the water is too warm, which can cause burning of the skin. Avoid hot surfaces such as a sand beach or tiles around swimming pools.
Tip 10 – Hyperbaric oxygen therapy and antioxidants
An effective treatment you could consider for fixing foot problems can be hyperbaric oxygen therapy. By breathing in air with an oxygen percentage of 100% the blood is provided with more oxygen. This can foster healing processes of wounds on the feet.
Alpha-lipoic acid is an antioxidant that can be found in the body and in food such as vegetables. It plays a role in providing the body with energy and prevents damages to tissues. Alpha-lipoic acid supplements can be used to reach the recommended daily dosage of 600 mg.
Want to get more tips to make living with diabetes easier, check out our blog article about headaches and diabetes for some more useful insights.
But don’t let that take over all your thoughts! As our CEO, Peter, would say: life is for living. And it’s not for constantly worrying about numbers or nutrients. Balance is everything.