What Does A Diabetic Foot Look Like?
A healthy diabetic foot should look like any other foot! A diabetes diagnosis doesn’t automatically come with a pair of disfigured feet. However, it can be a challenge to keep the healthy feet you were born with. Diabetics are at a higher risk for many common foot problems than the general population, and are therefore often warned to be vigilant and keep an eye on their feet. Education in this area is evidently lacking, however, because many diabetics report not being given much direction about what to look for. They may understand that foot complications are a risk, but fail to grasp the severity of the risk or commonness of the ailments, and therefore turn their attention to more pressing tasks.
This lack of knowledge and complacency can be the biggest hazard when it comes to diabetic foot care. Taking an active role is absolutely essential to foot health and overall health when it comes to diabetes. Diabetics looking to take better care of their feet should start by keeping them clean and checking them at least once a day for anything out of the ordinary. Read on to discover what potential warning signs to look for and how to lower your risk for developing serious diabetic foot issues.
What Are the Risks of Diabetes and My Feet?
Diabetics face many of the same potential foot issues that people without diabetes do. However, people with diabetes often face a loss of or painful increase in the sensitivity in their feet due to nerve damage. This makes it more difficult to feel problems as they arise, and more difficult for injuries to heal, leading to potential complications. This is why it’s so important for diabetics to check their feet with regularity and take precautionary measures against injury.
Potential issues that can arise in diabetic feet include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Athlete’s foot is a common foot infection characterized by itchiness and redness.
- Neuropathy is the term for diabetic nerve damage that causes the ‘pins and needles’ feeling in your feet.
- Bunions are a mass on your big toe joint that makes walking painful.
- Diabetic foot ulcers are deep sores or breaks in the skin sometimes caused by minor cuts and scrapes left unattended.
- Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is when the arteries that feed into your feet and legs experience reduced blood flow.
You should talk to your doctor if you notice any of the following issues, or anything else that looks unusual to you. Don’t be afraid to call up your doctor, even if it seems silly. When it comes to your health, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Look out for:
- Slow-healing, open cuts or sores. These can easily become infected and lead to bigger problems, plus they are signs of reduced blood flow to the area.
- Unusual odor. A sudden change in or worsening of foot odor can be a sign of fungus present on the feet or toenails.
- Hot spots. These are areas of higher temperature on the skin of the foot that may be caused by friction from shoes or socks, but should be checked on.
- Leg pain. Burning, tingling, or loss of feeling in the legs are all signs that something is wrong and needs to be addressed with a doctor.
- Swelling. Any swelling in the feet or ankles should be reported immediately. This could be a sign of fluid retention due to infection.
- Color change. A yellowish, very pink, or blueish tone is a signal that something is going on below the skin.
- Chronically dry skin: This is a sign of poor circulation and possible nerve damage, as is hair loss on feet and toes.
Manage Your Risks
When it comes to diabetes and your feet, the most important thing is to manage your risks. Create a routine involving the healthy behaviors listed below, in conjunction with your regular diabetes care, and you’ll put yourself in the best possible position for optimal foot health.
Check your feet every day. The easiest way to avoid foot problems is to check your feet each day. Keep it simple by making it a habit to take a look whenever you put your shoes on or take them off. If bending to see the bottoms of your feet is a struggle, use a mirror to get a better look. Keep an eye out for swelling, cuts, sores, or redness, dry or calloused skin, growths or warts, or irritation around the toenails.
Cover open wounds or blisters immediately to avoid chance of infection. Ask your doctor about any injuries that are slow to heal.
Wash your feet regularly. You should keep your feet clean and dry as often as possible. If your feet sweat during a long walk or workout, wash them in warm soapy water and change your socks. This will help prevent bacteria buildup and infection. Applying talcum powder between toes afterward dry out those areas and reduce the chance of athletes foot and other fungal infections.
Never go barefoot. . It sounds simple, but it could save you a lot of trouble. One of the biggest risks for foot injury with diabetes is stepping on something and not being able to feel it. A small injury can quickly worsen if not taken care of early. Be sure to shake out your shoes each time you put them on to make sure that there are no small pebbles or twigs inside that could cause injury when you walk.
Wear socks to protect your feet. Special diabetic socks are best. Minor cuts and scrapes can quickly become complicated in the feet of diabetic patients. Keeping your feet in special diabetic socks can help lower your risk for everyday injuries.Plus, keeping a layer of fabric between your feet and your shoes by wearing socks or stockings will help to prevent rubbing and the development of blisters, as will wearing shoes that fit properly.
Make sure you’re taking care of your overall health. Unchecked diabetes can wreak havoc on your feet and cause serious, permanent issues. Consistently high blood sugar levels can lead to neuropathy, which leads to pain and sensitivity issues in your feet. High blood pressure can also do damage to the feet and the body as a whole, so keep that in check as well, with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Smoking should also be avoided, as it has an adverse effect on blood circulation (not to mention overall health!) and can contribute to reduced blood flow to the feet and lower legs.
Stay on your feet! To keep them healthy, use them. Don’t sit for long periods of time - you want to keep the blood in your legs and feet flowing.You should especially avoid sitting in a way that cuts of circulation to one or both of your legs, such as crossing them or sitting on one of them. Consider a standing desk for work if possible so that you don’t spend all day not using your feet If that isn’t an option, even a small five minute walk can do wonders for the health of your feet.
Exercise. Exercises that are easy on the feet, like yoga, biking, and swimming, are great methods of supporting your overall health, including blood sugar and blood pressure levels, weight, mental health, and circulation. If you don’t already exercise regularly, make sure you start slow and gradually work your way up, as trying to just jump in could result in injury.
Pamper your feet! Keep your toenails trimmed and clean. Make sure to always clean nail trimming tools before use, and avoid salons if possible, as there is no way to guarantee that they clean their tools properly. Cut your nails straight across rather than trying to follow the curve of the nail. Use a nail file to smooth the edges. Don’t cut your nails excessively short, either.
If you have dry skin, apply lotion to keep the skin of your heels and feet from cracking. Do not use excessively hot water in the shower or bath, and don’t soak much longer than five minutes to avoid drying out your skin.
Get a Checkup. Ask your doctor to perform a foot exam at every visit to ensure that your feet and being regularly monitored by professionals, who can then answer any questions you have.
Be careful of extreme temperatures.
As tempting as it may be, don’t put your feet up in front of your campfire. You should also wear closed shoes when walking on sidewalks, decks, and sand and always apply sunscreen to your feet when they’re exposed to the sun. If you have nerve damage in your feet, you may not notice a burn until it’s severe, so it’s best to prevent it all together.
Cold feet can also be related to restricted blood flow, so keep them warm by sleeping with socks on in the winter and wearing warm, waterproof shoes in bad weather.
How Can Socks Help My Diabetic Feet?
Diabetic socks are designed to help manage the risks faced by diabetics. In addition to being crafted from breathable materials like cotton, Some brands even have antimicrobial features in their fabric to help prevent bacteria and fungal growth. In colder temperatures, these socks will keep your feet warm, ensuring good circulation.Diabetic socks are sewn together with as few seams as possible. Diabetic feet need a sock with as few possible irritations as possible.
Socks made for diabetics are meant to fit comfortably but not tightly. Diabetic socks are also non-elastic to avoid any slowing or prevention of circulation that regular socks may cause.
In many cases, diabetic socks have white soles. This can alert the wearer if they have any sort of foot wound, because drainage of blood or other fluid will be visible from outside the sock and the wearer will likely notice upon removing his shoes.
A well fitted sock can help protect your feet from everyday hazards, especially when paired with well-fitted, non-constricting shoes. Those who find themselves experiencing sensitivity may find that wearing socks helps manage the sensation.
For specific foot concerns, an ever-growing market of diabetic socks offers a range of types, each of which has special features to fit your needs. You may even find it useful to get different types for different activities.
Be sure to look moisture-wicking properties in your socks if you are very active or have a physically demanding job. These materials pull moisture away from the feet to help to evaporate the sweat, reducing the risk of fungus and infections. They also help to cut down on odor.
Padded acrylic socks, which come with different levels of padding, are ideal for those who exercise often because they keep feet dry and help cushion them to reduce the risk of any foot injury. Copper-infused socks are made with copper-infused yarn and also have antifungal properties and anti-odor protection. These days, there are even Smart Socks, which have tiny sensors in them to alert you of changes in your foot temperature, which can help you to predict and prevent blisters.
In short: What should I look for in a diabetic sock?
- A comfortable fit
- Breathable materials
- As few seams as possible
- Light colors (to make checking for wounds easier)
The resources available to diabetics these days are amazing, and the list just keeps growing as research and medical science evolves, so be sure to shop around for something that fits your needs.
Diabetic Foot Care Is Important
Learning how to take care of your feet is essential for a diabetic. Keeping an eagle eye on your feet for any potential cuts, scrapes, or other issues is key to managing your risks. Catching small issues before they can become complicated is one of the most important things you can do for your feet. In addition to regular preventative foot care, be sure to keep up with your overall health to ensure that you’re standing on your feet for a long, long time to come.