Living Well with Diabetes and how to care for your Feet the Supplefeet Way

Many people with diabetes have no problems with their feet and with good care and common sense precautions they can continue to enjoy “good foot health."

NICE (National Institute for Clinical Practice) has in its guidelines made an annual check up with your doctor and podiatrist a requirement as good practice to ensure that all remains well.

Diabetes is a disease that is divided into two distinct types:

  • Type 1 is where insulin injections are used to control blood sugars
  • Type 2 which is controlled by diet only or medication

Both types of Diabetes can have serious effects on the feet and the management of the Diabetic foot is an important part of podiatrists work.

People with diabetes need to constantly examine their feet as diabetes is the number one cause of non-traumatic amputation. Please note that for patients with diabetes, approximately 15 percent will suffer foot ulcers in their lifetime. To help avoid this diabetic patients must constantly check their feet.

Painful foot conditions like an ingrown toenail generally cause people to quickly seek medical attention before infection sets in. If there is diabetes and loss of sensation there may not be the warning signs of pain. Waiting too long for treatment can be dangerous.

Diabetic ulcers

If a diabetic ulcer forms then podiatry treatments are many and varied. They include wound debridement, which involves the removal of dead and infected tissue, and the application of specialised paddings or casts to relieve pressure on the wound and allow patients to continue with their daily activities.

Many times, healing the ulcer is the easy part but preventing recurrence is where the challenge stands. Patient education is the real key to prevention and podiatrists will work with the patient to ensure this message is received and implemented daily.

Diabetic neuropathy

This condition is seen in some Diabetics and is caused by the impairment of nerve function due to increased blood sugars. It produces numbness, burning or tingling and diminished sensation in the feet. Individuals who suffer from this may not be able to feel open sores, infections or blisters that need treatment. When these slow-healing wounds go untreated, infection can set in and the result can be devastating.

Podiatry treatment is essential in helping to prevent this scenario.

Simple steps for taking care of your feet

  • For people with diabetes, complications such as infection or injury can be particularly serious when they affect the feet. The good news is that by following this list of do’s and don’ts, you can greatly reduce the risk of incurring problems.
  • Be careful with sharp instruments. Do not cut corns or calluses off your feet. Do not use corn plasters that contain caustic agents. These increase substantially the risk of infection. See your podiatrist for help and advice.
  • Keep your toenails in good order, cut them straight across to avoid ingrown toenails. Use a good nail file like the Diamond Deb.
  • Maintain a proper weight. Lose weight if you need to, because not only will it help you control your diabetes, but it will also mean less pressure on your feet.
  • Never go barefoot. Each day get into the habit of checking and examining your shoes inside. Check your socks to avoid rough seams or mended areas; everything should fit smoothly and comfortably.
  • Stop smoking; people with diabetes already face blood circulation problems, and smoking makes things even worse
  • Check your feet. Look for any changes and/or breaks in the skin, such as redness, swelling, broken skin, sores, bleeding, or any unusual feelings such as tingling or numbness. A hand mirror can be useful here, or if that is difficult, another person can check for you. Any such changes can be the early stages of a potentially serious complication, and if noticed, you should make an appointment to see your podiatrist or GP as soon as possible.
  • Keep your feet clean. It is important to wash your feet with soap and warm water every day; prolonged soaking should be avoided. Also important is to make sure the water is warm - not hot - by checking it with your elbow. Do not check it with your hands and feet because you may not feel the temperature differences accurately enough.
  • Moisturise your feet and legs. You need to apply a moisturiser to your feet every day to prevent them from becoming dry and cracked.
  • Damaged skin can lead to serious problems. If your skin is extremely dry, you may require more specialised treatment. Recommended Hydrostat.
  • Avoid direct heat. Do not use a heating pad or hot water bottle on your legs or feet for any reason.
  • Avoid too tight footwear or restrictive clothing. If you have problems with your blood circulation (ask your doctor if you're not sure) avoid crossing your legs and stay away from garters, girdles, or other clothing that might restrict blood flow to your feet.
  • Always consult your GP or podiatrist when concerns arise. Ensure you have an annual foot check. This service is available on the NHS.
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