Diabetes is a group of chronic metabolic conditions that disrupt the body’s ability to convert what you eat into energy. Your cells require this process to fuel physiological processes and power daily activities. People with diabetes can face wide-ranging complications, including an increased risk for slow-healing wounds or ulcers that can lead to amputation. The prevalence of podiatric challenges among people with this condition—and the potential for losing a toe, foot, or leg—make proper podiatry care a critical aspect of diabetes management. The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” rings especially true for people with this challenging medical issue.
Here’s what you should know about caring for your feet, preventing diabetic foot wounds, and how the experts at Annapolis Foot & Ankle Center’s Chesapeake Amputation Prevention Center can help you avoid limb loss and protect your overall health.
The Link Between Diabetes and Foot Complications
Diabetes is associated with numerous foot problems and complications, including peripheral neuropathy and poor circulation, both of which significantly increase the risk of foot ulcers. Understanding how these conditions develop is vital to your prevention efforts.
Over time, elevated blood sugar levels can damage the nerves in your extremities—and your feet are particularly at risk. This nerve damage, called neuropathy, leads to a loss of sensation that makes it difficult or impossible to notice injuries, temperature changes, and other signs of potential problems.
Diabetes can also cause vascular issues that reduce blood flow to the extremities, slowing the body’s healing process and increasing the risk of infections.
Proper Foot Care Practices to Prevent Diabetic Foot Wounds and Keep Your Feet on the Right Track
Since diabetes is a complex chronic condition, patients typically have more than one medical professional dedicated to their care. Your diabetes management team might include your primary care doctor, an endocrinologist, an ophthalmologist or optometrist, and other health care providers.
Seeing a podiatrist regularly is essential to keeping diabetic feet healthy, too. Following best practices for diabetic foot care can help you keep your feet on the right track. Here are some general guidelines we often recommend, but for more personalized foot care instructions, schedule an appointment with one of our Central Maryland podiatrists.
Daily Foot Checks
Research shows that approximately 50 percent of people with diabetes have some form of nerve damage, and with loss of sensation common, keeping a close eye on your feet is crucial to preventing foot ulcers and avoiding other complications. Our knowledgeable podiatrists strongly recommend that diabetic patients incorporate daily foot inspections into their routine, thoroughly examining the tops, sides, and bottoms of the feet, as well as the spaces between the toes. Look for signs such as redness, swelling, discoloration, temperature changes, and other potential issues.
These daily foot checks serve as a critical defense against foot sores, enabling early and effective intervention to prevent concerns from escalating into more serious problems.
Practicing proper hygiene is fundamental to preventing dangerous diabetic foot wounds. Wash your feet daily with mild soap and warm (not hot) water. However, avoid soaking your feet, which can increase the risk of infection, resulting in dryness or skin breakdown and delayed healing. Pat your feet dry with a soft, clean towel. Apply a moisturizing lotion or cream to the tops and bottoms of your feet, but not between the toes, as this creates warm, damp conditions that could lead to a fungal infection.
Ingrown toenails and fungal nail infections are common complaints among diabetic patients. Fortunately, podiatric nail care best practices—such as trimming toenails straight across, rather than rounding the edges—help you keep your feet looking and feeling fantastic. See our podiatric professionals for personalized nail care instructions or professional assistance.
Selecting well-fitting footwear that’s appropriate for your activities can benefit anyone, but for diabetics, it’s crucial to prevent pressure points that could increase your risk of sores and ulcers. Annapolis Foot & Ankle Center’s Dr. Eric S. Harmelin, DPM, and Dr. Nicholas Fifelski, DPM provide personalized guidance for your shoe search or fit you for diabetic shoes that offer optimal support, cushioning, and protection.
Avoid going barefoot, even at home, as this helps minimize the risk of injuries, protects your feet from potential hazards, and reduces the chances of unnoticed cuts or wounds that can lead to complications. We also recommend wearing socks with your shoes to reduce the potential for athlete’s foot and fungal nail infections.
Managing Your Diabetes Well is Crucial for Maintaining Optimal Podiatric Health
Besides seeing a podiatrist regularly and at the first sign of a foot problem, keeping your blood sugar levels within the target range is the most important thing you can do for your podiatric health.
When your blood glucose is elevated, the sugar can’t effectively enter your cells for use as energy. Instead, it remains in the bloodstream, leading to wide-ranging complications, including nerve damage and poor circulation that increases your risk for diabetic foot wounds. Talk to your primary care doctor, endocrinologist, or an experienced diabetes educator if you need assistance gaining tighter control of your blood sugar levels.
Maintaining target blood glucose levels isn’t the only lifestyle change that has a positive impact on both your feet and your overall health and wellness.
Regular exercise offers dual benefits for people with diabetes by helping improve blood sugar control and circulation. Talk to your primary care doctor before beginning a new exercise program to ensure it’s safe and appropriate. You can also ask a physical therapist or fitness professional for advice on how to work more physical activity into your daily routine.
Eating a balanced diet is crucial for diabetic foot health as it helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes overall cardiovascular well-being, and provides essential nutrients that contribute to proper nerve function and circulation, which are key factors in preventing foot wounds and other diabetes-related complications.
Drinking plenty of water is essential for proper hydration and diabetic foot health. Not only can staying hydrated help prevent skin dryness and cracking that can lead to complications, but adequate water intake improves overall health and supports the healing process.
Central Maryland Podiatrists Dr. Eric Harmelin and Dr. Nicholas Fifelski Provide Specialized Care
When your foot health, mobility, and quality of life are at stake, you need exceptional podiatric care. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s how adding one of Annapolis Foot & Ankle Center’s diabetic foot care specialists to your team can help you protect your feet.
Regular Podiatry Appointments
Regular visits with your podiatrist are crucial in preventing diabetic foot wounds and amputations. These check-ups include routine examinations that help us identify potential issues early, enabling prompt intervention.
Personalized Foot Care Plans
Dr. Harmelin and Dr. Fifelski work with you to develop a highly customized care plan based on your individual needs and risk factors. These plans typically include instructions for daily foot care, inspections, and nail care, as well as recommendations for diabetes-friendly footwear.
Routine Skin and Nail Care
Simple tasks like trimming your toenails or removing dry skin can be dangerous for people with diabetes. Don’t risk an injury that could lead to infection. Our podiatry professionals can assist you with routine care recommendations.