If you own a car or a house, odds are good you know the value of preventative maintenance. A little effort to make sure everything is in running order always beats the costs of something failing at the moment you need it.
Diabetic foot care is a lot like maintaining your home or car. The big differences, however, come in two factors:
- What you are taking care of is your own body.
- You are not just guarding against “wear and tear.”
Why Diabetes is Dangerous to Your Feet
The effects of diabetes are far from limited to the feet, so what makes it so important to have “diabetic foot care” as its own thing?
Diabetes can be—and often is—dangerous to the feet for two main reasons.
First, the disease can interfere with circulation throughout the body—but this can have an especially significant impact on the feet. Our feet are the farthest parts of us from our hearts, and our blood is already often fighting gravity on the return trip. This is part of the reason it’s so easy for your feet to “fall asleep.”
When diabetes slows down circulation, it makes the job of getting blood to the feet all that much more difficult. As blood delivers the nutrients and oxygen your body needs to function at its best, a slowdown can interfere with certain functions. Of particular concern to us is the ability for wounds and sores on the feet to heal quickly. An interference with circulation can cause injuries to remain longer—or even indefinitely without medical intervention—and that’s a problem.
Second, diabetes can cause damage to the nerves in the feet (and circulation problems do not help). This damage—also called “peripheral neuropathy”—can cause pain, tingling, and other sensations. As damage grows worse, however, it becomes difficult to feel any sensations at all. Your feet need sensation for proper balance and to know when something is causing injury or irritation.
The combination of slower-healing injuries and a loss of sensation creates one of the most significant dangers to feet with diabetes. Injuries to the feet can go undetected because of nerve damage. Without proper treatment, and especially if a patient keeps walking on the injury, even a small nick can develop into a serious diabetic wound.
Diabetic wounds can greatly interfere with mobility and overall health. They have a much higher risk of growing infected, which can lead to extended hospitalization and—in way too many cases than necessary—lead to a need for amputation of the foot.
We are not here to scare you with dire warnings, though. We are here to show you how easy it can be to prevent these problems and lead a much more comfortable life!
Your Best Weapon Is Your Eyes
A problematic factor of diabetes is that it can creep in rather sneakily. You may start losing sensation and circulation so gradually that you don’t really realize that changes are happening.
That’s why diabetic foot care needs to start well before any potential problems arise, and it needs to become a habit. Fortunately, the best thing you can do for your feet is rather easy:
Inspect your feet every day for signs of trouble.
Seriously. If there’s One Big Thing you should be doing, this is it.
Inspecting your feet daily can detect potential problems before they have a chance to become something serious. Make an inspection part of your daily routine by slipping it into your schedule at a convenient time. A look just before bed, for example, or before or after hopping into the shower; anytime your feet are bare and can bear an examination.
Inspect the tops and bottoms of your feet, and do not be afraid to carefully feel along them with your hands. If you have trouble reaching your feet, a mirror or selfie stick can help, as can the aid of a loved one.
Look for any signs of abnormality. This can include:
- Ingrown toenails
- Sensitive or painful areas
- Anything else that just seems out of the ordinary
If you find something, please give us a call. This does not mean you will always have to come in with every little thing you find, but it gives us a record. We might ask you to keep an eye on things for a few days to see whether the condition improves. If things do sound suspicious or troublesome, however, we very well may ask you to come in for an appointment.
Other Forms of Preventative Care
Watching for and quickly treating foot problems is a critical element of diabetic foot care, but so is taking steps to address potential areas of concern.
In addition to daily self-examinations, we recommend occasional professional exams to catch anything else that might be going on. We can detect whether you have an abnormal foot shape that causes too much pressure and irritation in certain areas of the foot, for example.
Knowing these precautions, we can recommend further preventative care. This can include diabetic shoes, custom orthotics, stretches and exercise to strengthen the feet and ankles in certain ways, and other measures.
Safeguarding your feet against complications from diabetes can take some diligence, but it does not have to be difficult. Brook Valley Podiatry will be in your corner to provide preventative care and prompt treatment whenever you need them.
Our Spring Valley office is happy to accept new patients. Give us a call at (845) 352-7507 to schedule an appointment. If you prefer to make an appointment request or ask questions electronically, you can also reach us by filling out our online contact form. A member of our staff will respond as soon as they are available.