November is American Diabetes Awareness month, a time set aside to bring greater awareness to the epidemic of diabetes and to advocate for those who suffer from this difficult condition. One of the most common complications associated with diabetes is nerve damage or neuropathy. This can occur in any part of your body, but the nerves in your lower extremities are more usually affected. Therefore, you need to pay special attention to your feet.
Nerve damage can lead to foot complications such as
- burning, tingling and numbness in the feet
- loss of feeling in the feet
- sores and infections that don’t heal
Let’s examine the first one. Not feeling pain may sound like a good thing, but in fact, it can prevent you from knowing if something is wrong. For example, you can step on a nail and not be aware of it.
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) reduces blood flow to the feet leading to neuropathy, burning, tingling and numbness as well as loss of feeling in the feet.
With poor blood flow to the legs and feet, you can develop sores and infections which can lead to you having a toe or foot amputated. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), every 3 minutes someone in the United States has a limb amputated. This is very concerning, but even more so, the ADA states that this rate of amputation is 75% more frequent than it was less than a decade ago.
What you can do
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gives the following tips for taking care of your feet:
Check your feet everyday for any blisters or calluses. If you can’t see under your feet, have a family member do it or use a mirror. (See below).
- Wash your feet everyday in warm water but do not soak them.
- Dry your feet completely and apply lotion to the top and bottom but not between your toes, as this could lead to infection.
- Never go barefoot. Wear well-fitting shoes and check shoes and socks to make sure there are no small, sharp objects like pebbles in them.
- Trim your toenails straight across and use an emery board to smooth any sharp edges. Better still, have your podiatrist cut your nails. Have him check your feet for feeling and blood flow.
- Put your feet up when you are sitting and wiggle your toes to keep the blood flowing.
- Do feet-friendly activities like walking, riding a bike, or swimming. Ask your doctor for more recommendations.
- If you smoke, STOP!
The video below shows you how you can care for your feet.