Sugar Is Not Your Friend
Does this sound familiar? Every day you must watch what you eat. Exercising isn’t a simply nice idea—it’s a necessity to improve your overall health. Your medications help, but you still must check your blood regularly to be sure you’re staying on target. For many people, this is reality. If you or someone you care about have been diagnosed with diabetes, you already know how it takes control of your life. Even your lowest limbs are in danger of life-threatening complications.
Bad News for the Lower Limbs
Diabetes puts your feet at high risk for painful and permanent complications from elevated and fluctuating blood sugar levels. This occurs because the disease affects how your body uses sugars in your blood, called glucose. Diabetes poses a serious health problem for your lower limbs. As fluctuating blood sugar levels damage nerves, impair circulation, and weaken tissues –you develop a higher risk for injuries and issues like ulcers, while losing your ability to heal those conditions efficiently.
It’s possible your body is unable to manufacture insulin, the hormone that allows you to absorb and use sugar, or your body isn’t able to process the insulin properly. Instead of the sugar absorbing into your cells where it can be used for energy, it stays in the blood stream, damaging the vessels, organs, and other tissues.
Often this damage is felt first in the extremities, like your feet. The tissue breakdown from elevated sugar levels injures the nerves running to your lower limbs, making you less likely to notice any uncomfortable changes or problems. Damaged nerves themselves can also be painful, so even if you have numb spots, you may still experience sharp or burning sensations.
With diabetes, your immune system response is significantly weakened, so it’s much more difficult for your body to repair even small injuries or little infections. You must invest in diabetic foot care to prevent otherwise small problems from deteriorating into big ones that could, that if left unchecked, lead to limb amputations. That means wearing the right footwear, keeping feet clean, and inspecting them regularly for changes.
Since diabetes poses such a risk for your feet, it’s vital that you invest in them before you incur severe injuries. One of the most important things you can do is work with your doctor to maintain good foot health. Dr. Sanjay Patel can examine your feet regularly for changes or concerns that you might not have noticed, as well as teach you proper daily cleaning and care habits.
- Footwear: You need supportive shoes to manage pressure on your lower limbs. The right shoes should be breathable as well as protect your feet from biomechanical problems. You may need orthotics to help with this. Wear fitted, moisture-wicking socks as well to reduce your risk for fungal infections and blisters. Keep your feet covered at all times—even when you’re at home—to avoid accidental injuries.
- Cleanliness: Wash and completely dry your feet every day. Use warm—not hot—running water and a gentle soap. Pat your feet to dry them and make sure you get in between your toes. Rub lotion into your skin afterwards, paying extra attention to your heels and avoiding between the toes. Clip nails straight across every few weeks.
- Inspection: Check your feet for changes daily. Even small problems can be concerning. Look for cuts, bruises, bumps, skin or nail discoloration, temperature changes, and little sores. If you find something, have it investigated to make sure nothing more serious develops.
You will need to be extra careful to not only maintain good foot hygiene, but also avoid accidentally hurting yourself when you clip your nails or scrub your calluses. Take the time to inspect your lower limbs every day when you wash them —that way, you catch any changes or injuries that may develop before they have a chance to become a real problem.
When you do notice those issues—or if you experience any pain in your feet—do not ignore it. Continuing to walk on an injury, even a tiny one, when your immune system isn’t able to heal it quickly or efficiently can lead to serious ulcers, major infections, or even bone breakdown. Fortunately, there are ways to protect your feet from harm. Your footwear choices make a huge difference. Wearing shoes that support your arches, cushion the soles, and don’t squeeze or stress the feet are key. They help protect against many easy-to-avoid problems. Keep your feet clean and your skin moist and supple as well. Thick, dried out skin is more likely to crack or become infected.
When you live with diabetes, diabetic foot care is not optional – your whole life is affected. Your feet are at higher risk for permanent damage that might require serious solutions like amputation. You don’t, however, have to resign yourself to a life of lower limb pain and dysfunction. If you pay attention to your feet and address problems as they arise, you can take control of your health and continue to do the activities that you love. Don’t wait until you’re struggling with pain or disabling problems to seek help for your diabetic foot care. Contact Dr. Sanjay Patel at Family Foot Care & Surgery, L.L.C. for an appointment or more information by visiting the website contact page or by calling either of our two conveniently located offices: (203) 876-7736 for the Milford location, or (203) 288-4055 for the Hamden office.