Give Your Feet Some Love
You can avoid foot complications starting today
Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!
November 2008 — From the day you get diagnosed with diabetes, you hear about "diabetic foot." I have always found this term a bit odd. After all, it seems to give feet a personality and the potential to develop diabetes. (Or maybe it sounds to me that way because my first language was not English!)
Most importantly, it seems to me the term "diabetic foot" is very distant. It almost sounds removed from you, as if you were talking about someone else's feet, not yours. And nothing could be further from the truth. So, today I am setting out to redeem this forsaken part of our diabetic body in an effort to help protect it from a dreaded amputation.
I am sure you have read it before: When you have diabetes, you are at risk of nerve damage and problems with blood supply to your feet. So, one day you step something sharp and cut yourself by accident; you don't feel it, it starts getting infected… one thing leads to another and before you know it, you can kiss a toe or a foot goodbye.
I know this may sound too simplistic and perhaps a bit brutal, but knowing how it happens helps us take the steps to prevent it. To help me come up with the tips ahead, I corresponded with Dr. Shankhdhar, diabetologist at the L.K. Diabetes Centre in India. As a specialist in diabetic foot care, he has seen his share of foot complications in people with diabetes. So here is the list of things he recommends we do to take care of our feet.
- Maintain good glycemic control. At the top of the list of things to do, not surprisingly, is working towards lower hemoglobin A1C levels. Doing the same things you do everyday to maintain healthy blood sugar levels also happens to be the most important thing you can do to preserve your feet. No news here, right? Just keep working on those numbers.
- Inspect your feet. After you come out of the shower is a good time to try to give your feet some love! At the very least, try to spot any possible cuts or wounds that could become infected. Also make sure your doctor examines your feet. He is going to pull a small filament and softly pinch the sole of your feet. It's actually painless, but you are supposed to feel the tiny pinches. If you don't, it's a possible sign of nerve damage.
- Wear comfortable shoes. This may sound like something we should do anyway. Still, researchers from University of Dundee (UK) have found almost 60 percent of people with diabetes walk around in tight shoes. Is it so hard to find a comfy pair of shoes? Just in case, check out this chat about shoes other people with diabetes have found to work for them, in case you need help.
- Avoid walking barefoot. This one seems like a no-brainer, yet we constantly forget it, don't we? Just try to remember to always wear socks or sandals, even if you are indoors. You never know where you could be stepping on something that could cause you a "booboo" (as my 5-year old would call it).
- Avoid smoking. Do I really need to elaborate on this one? Smoking is bad for you and, when you smoke, you worsen all complications tied to diabetes, including foot problems. So if you can't put that cigarette down, try to start a program, get a patch, or whatever you need to break the habit.
Wrapping up the chat, Dr. Shankhdhar shared a chilling statistic with me: "Every 30 seconds, a leg is lost to diabetes and 50% of these people lose the other limb also within five years."
Do we really need to lose a foot or a toe before we start taking care of our feet? I don't think so! If you haven't done it, show your feet that you care for them starting today.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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