What Your Feet Say About Your Diabetes Management

Health Writer
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People with diabetes more prone to foot problems, according to the American Diabetes Association. Even minor foot problems, such as cuts or sores, can lead to serious complications. Caring for your feet and managing your blood sugar levels can prevent foot problems and lower your risk of amputation, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD).

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How does diabetes affect feet?

There are two main ways diabetes affects your feet, according to NIDDKD. Over time, diabetes can cause nerve damage, called diabetic neuropathy, which can cause numbness, tingling, and pain in your foot. It can also cause lower blood flow to your foot, which results in sores that take longer to heal and infections.

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The importance of good foot care

Infections from sores or ulcers that do not heal can lead to gangrene, which may result in amputation of your toe, foot, or leg, according to NIDDKD. This is usually done to prevent the infection from spreading to other parts of your body.

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From foot to blood sugar

Problems with your feet, especially tingling and numbness, can signal that you need to better control your blood sugar, according to the Canadian Diabetes Association. Other warning signs of diabetes include sores that are slow to heal, frequent urination, being thirsty, fatigue, and blurry vision, according to the American Diabetes Association. If you have these symptoms, you may want to contact your doctor for a diabetes evaluation.

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Caring for your feet

While your doctor may request an annual foot exam - with your shoes and socks off - it is important for you to examine your feet everyday, according to the American Diabetes Association. Check for red spots, cuts, swelling, and blisters. Use a mirror to look at the bottom of your feet. Contact your doctor if you notice cuts that aren’t healing, tingling, numbness, or swelling.

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Foot hygiene is important

Wash your feet at least once each day with lukewarm water and mild soap. When you do, carefully dry in between your toes. You should also keep your toenails trimmed, according to the American Diabetes Association. If you find it difficult to reach your toes, ask someone to help, make an appointment with a podiatrist or have regular pedicures.

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Keep the blood flowing

When sitting down, put your feet up. You should wiggle your toes and move your ankles several times per day, according to the American Diabetes Association. Smoking can reduce blood flow, according to the US National Library of Medicine. If you smoke, start taking steps to quit.

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Wear shoes and socks at all times

When you have diabetes, it is important to protect your feet from injury. Wear shoes and socks at all times, according to the US National Library of Medicine. Before putting on shoes, check inside for stones, nails, or rough areas that may injure your foot. Make sure your shoes fit properly. If you have difficulty with shoes, talk to your doctor about special shoes that can provide more comfort.

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Protect your feet from extreme temperatures

When you have diabetic neuropathy, you may have decreased feeling in your feet. You may burn your feet without knowing it. The NIDDK suggests wearing sunscreen on the tops of your feet, wearing shoes at the beach or when walking on hot pavement, keeping your feet away from fires, and never using a hot water bottle or heating pad on your feet.

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Know when to see a doctor

If you experience any of the following, you should contact your doctor, according to the NIDDK:

  • Cuts, blisters, or bruises that do not begin to heal within a few days
  • Skin that is red, warm, or painful
  • Calluses with dried blood inside
  • Foot infection that is black or smelly