Even the most common of callouses can become life threatening for a diabetic. Avoid major problems by keeping an eye out for diabetic complications. Here are the big issues to watch for.
There are many reasons diabetics have to take special precautions with their feet. Reason number one is neuropathy. Neuropathy is nerve damage in the feet caused by high blood sugar levels. Nerve damage means you might not be able to feel pain, heat, or cold as well as you used to.
When you can’t feel a rock in your shoe or can’t tell that your shoes are too tight, you can easily injure yourself. If you don’t notice an injury, you may get an infection. If infections aren’t cared for, they can become life threatening and your doctors may discuss amputation.
Neuropathy can also cause changes in the shape of the foot and toes. You may need special shoes to keep your feet healthy.
Another big issue for diabetics is poor circulation. Diabetes causes blood vessels to narrow and harden,and both symptoms limit blood flow. Since your feet are the end of the line, they are the first to suffer from decreased blood flow.
Poor circulation contributes to the nerve damage of neuropathy and slows the healing of injuries, a double whammy for your feet. A little exercise goes a long way to increase circulation. If your feet are healthy, walk every day to increase blood flow and infection-fighting oxygen to your feet.
The nerves control the amount of oil produced in the skin of your feet and, by extension, the moisture in your feet. Diabetics with nerve damage suffer from very dry feet that crack and become infected.
After your morning shower, seal in the moisture with a little petroleum jelly or foot cream. Be careful not to put anything between your toes, where extra moisture could lead to infection.
That buildup of tough skin on the bottom of your feet is usually a good thing, but for diabetics, calluses build up thicker and faster than non-diabetics. Thick calluses can turn into ulcers (open sores).
Keep your calluses under control by visiting your doctor to have them trimmed. Don’t try to trim them yourself or use chemicals to remove them. You can, however, use a pumice stone during your shower every day to keep calluses under control.
These open wounds usually occur on the most used parts of your foot, such as the ball of the foot or the bottom of the big toe. You may not feel any pain, but take all ulcers seriously. Once infected, ulcers can be very hard to treat.
See your doctor right away for any ulcer. He or she may recommend surgery to remove infected tissue and to ensure the bone is not affected. Don’t walk on the foot until the ulcer is fully healed. Even after it heals, watch to make sure the scar tissue doesn’t begin to break down and cause further infection.
Diabetics who struggle with decreased blood flow to the legs and feet have peripheral arterial disease (PAD). If you have PAD, you are much more likely to have a foot infection that requires amputation. When an infection rages out of control and the bacteria threatens your life, your doctor will consider removing your foot to protect the rest of your body.
Proper and quick care can help you avoid amputation.
The Bottom Line
Take care of your feet so you can continue your active lifestyle for many years!