Diabetic Foot Care
If you have diabetes you are at a greater risk of foot problems. In fact, diabetes can often first be detected in the foot.
Diabetes is a systemic disease affecting many different parts of the body, and ideal case management requires a team approach. Your foot care nurse is an integral part of the treatment team and is often successful in preventing amputations. The key to amputation prevention in diabetic patients is early recognition and regular foot screenings, at least annually, from a foot care nurse and referrals may be necessary.
In addition to these checkups, there are warning signs that you should be aware of so that they may be identified and acknowledged by your foot care nurse, family doctor or podiatrist. They include signs such as:
- skin colour changes
- elevation in skin temperature
- swelling of your foot or ankle
- pain in the legs
- open sores on your feet that are slow to heal
- ingrown and fungal toenails
- bleeding corns and calluses
- dry cracks in the skin, especially around the heel.
Ulceration is a common occurrence with the diabetic foot and should be carefully monitored by a foot care nurse to reduce the risk of ulceration and the possibility of amputation. Poorly fitted shoes, or something as trivial as a stocking seam, or a rock in your shoe can create a wound that may not be felt by someone whose skin sensation is diminished. Left unattended, ulcers can develop and quickly become infected, which can lead to more serious consequences. Your foot care nurse knows how to prevent these wounds and can be an important factor in keeping your feet healthy and strong.
If you have diabetes it is important that you:
- wash your feet daily
- inspect your feet and toes daily
- wear thick, soft socks (diabetic socks can be purchased)
- stop smoking
- visit your foot care nurse for regular check-ups
- cut toenails straight across
- obtain help from a foot care nurse to remove calluses, corns or warts and have your nails trimmed and filed.
- exercise regularly
- Perform gentle exercises such as moving your feet in circles or up and down to help improve mobility, flexibility and circulation.
- Do calf-stretching exercises to reduce tightness in the back of the lower leg muscles. Lean against the wall and place one foot forward and one foot back; bend the forward knee and you will feel the calf muscle of the opposite leg stretch. Hold for 10 seconds. Change the position of your legs and repeat the exercise.
- be properly measured and fitted every time you buy new shoes and buy your shoes later in the afternoon when your feet will swell the most.
- Have your foot mechanics evaluated by a pedorthist. Structural imbalances that can lead to bunions and callouses can be corrected. A pedorthist specialises in orthotics, footwear modifications, compression stockings and orthopedic footwear.
- wear appropriate footwear rather than going barefoot and get a pair of indoor shoes or diabetic slippers for indoor use.
- avoid wearing high heels, sandals or shoes with pointed toes
- drink in moderation
- avoid wearing anything that is too tight around the legs
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