If you or someone you know is living with diabetes, you may be just beginning to understand the impacts it can have on your overall health and wellbeing if it is not managed properly. In collaboration with Sole Science, The Pedorthic Association of Canada and The Canadian Diabetes Association, we have put together a guide to living with diabetes and the importance of looking after your feet, keep reading to understand what diabetes is, foot complications that can arise, daily foot care tips, the do’s and don’t’s and the importance of regular foot exams.
What is Diabetes?
“Diabetes is a disease in which your body either can’t produce insulin or can’t properly use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone produced by your pancreas.
Insulin’s role is to regulate the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Blood sugar must be carefully regulated to ensure that the body functions properly. Too much blood sugar can cause damage to organs, blood vessels, and nerves. Your body also needs insulin in order to use sugar for energy.
Eleven million Canadians are living with diabetes or prediabetes. Chances are, diabetes affects you or someone you know.” -Canadian Diabetes Association
Foot complications and diabetes
Diabetes can cause nerve damage and blood flow problems in the legs and feet. As a result, people with diabetes are at a higher risk for developing complications from minor injuries such as blisters or cuts. Nerve damage reduces sensation, making it difficult to feel when an injury has occurred. Poor blood flow makes it difficult for the body to heal small cuts or wounds. For people with diabetes, it is common for a small injury to become a serious problem if it is not treated appropriately.
Daily foot care tips
Developing a daily foot care routine is one of the best ways to prevent foot complications. The following 5 point checklist will help you get started:
- Thoroughly wash and dry your feet everyday. Use warm water and mild soap. Dry feet thoroughly, especially between the toes
- Inspect both feet – top and bottom! Look for any changes to the skin; redness, cracks, blisters, cuts, bruises or other changes. Use a small mirror to see the bottom of your feet, or ask someone to check them for you.
- Inspect and maintain your toenails. Check daily for any cracks, ingrown nails or other changes. Keep toenails trimmed straight across and file any sharp edges. Don’t trim nails too short.
- Moisturize soles and heels. Apply lotion to the soles and the heels of your feet. Avoid putting lotion between the toes, as excessive moisture can cause fungus and other infections.
- Always wear clean socks and well-fitting shoes. Whenever possible, wear light coloured socks. If you have a cut or blister, the drainage will be more noticeable on the light coloured fabric. Avoid socks with tight elastic or thick seams.
- Always check the insides of your shoes for pebbles or other objects.
General do’s and dont’s for foot care and diabetes
Wear well fitting shoes. They should be supportive, have low heels and be wide enough to accommodate your foot. Shoes should not rub or pinch and ideally be lined with a soft, seamless interior.
- See a professional for corn, wart or callus removal.
- Wear shoes, or slippers. The added protection helps to prevent minor foot injuries.
- Wear socks to bed if your feet are cold.
- Exercise regularly to maintain good circulation. Simple exercises such as seated calf raises and ankle rotations can improve circulation.
- Elevate your feet and legs when sitting. This helps to encourage blood flow back to the heart and eases the pressure on the veins in the lower legs.
- See a Pedorthist for advice on the right off-loading insole for your shoes
- Wearing shoes that are worn out, too tight, stretched out or poorly fit. Poorly fitted shoes can cause pressure and friction which can lead to a blister or a cut.
- Using over-the-counter medications for corns and warts. These can be dangerous for people with Diabetes.
- Going barefoot, even indoors. Consider buying a well-fitting shoe specifically for indoors, or use a supportive slipper.
- Using heating pads or hot water bottles. Even minor nerve damage can impair the ability to sense when a heating pad is too hot and can lead to burns.
- Smoking. Smoking decreases circulation and impairs wound healing. Smoking is a significant risk factor in amputation in people with Diabetes.
- Sitting with the legs or ankles crossed for long periods of time.
- Wearing over-the-counter insoles in your shoes. These devices can cause blisters if they are not right for your feet.
Importance of regular foot exams
It is important to see a foot care professional for regular foot exams. Regular screening assists with early detection of problems and allows for the appropriate referrals to be made. During these exams, your foot care professional will assess nerve function, blood flow, joint ranges of motion, muscular strength and overall physical state of your feet. Your foot care professional will be able to notice changes in your feet over time and make recommendations for optimizing your foot health.
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