Over time, uncontrolled diabetes can create nerve and blood flow problems. Less oxygen, fewer nutrients and declining numbers of nerve signals reach the lower limbs, with the toes, feet and ankles suffering the earliest and worst damage. The skin dries out and cracks or tears, and wounds heal slowly or not at all, leading to bleeding and infections. Additionally, nerve damage makes it easier to suffer injuries from stepping on sharp objects or scraping across uneven surfaces. Eventually, unhealed and festering wounds can become life-threatening. As unwelcome as amputating a foot is, it often represents the only option.
Caring for Your Feet
When a patient has to have their foot amputated, it’s typically due to these five steps:
- Develop diabetes
- Fail to control your insulin and blood glucose levels
- Ignore signs that you are losing feeling in your feet
- Neglect cracks, infections and injuries
- Schedule a surgery
Keeping your feet despite suffering diabetes is almost as easy. Follow the steps outlined below and commit to these healthy habits.
Save Your Feet in 5 Steps
Here is a synthesis of the five best pieces of advice the American Diabetes Association, Mayo Clinic and the National Institutes of Health give for diabetes foot care:
- Keep your diabetes under control. Know your numbers, take your medications, administer your insulin as needed and eat healthily. Few to no blood glucose crashes or spikes translate into few to no diabetes complications.
- Wash and inspect both feet every day. Be careful of cuts, toenail fungus and ingrown nails. Use a mirror and ask your spouse or caregiver to look at areas you cannot see.
- Massage and apply lotion regularly. Prevent calluses that can crack and harbor bacteria.
- Wear socks and expertly fitted shoes. Shoes that are too loose can create as many problems as shoes that are too tight.
- Elevate your feet when not exercising. Walking and other forms of low-impact exercise improve circulation, while propping up your feet and keeping your legs uncrossed while laying down or sitting prevents swelling.
Work With Your Doctor
Approximately 4 of every 1,000 people with long-term diabetes have to undergo one or more lower limb amputations. You can avoid that fate by taking the actions listed here. Dr. Gabriel Maislos, DPM, FACFAS, is a trained podiatrist with experience helping diabetes sufferers. Call him at (713) 541-3199 to get help finding the right shoes, learning how to conduct foot care and recognizing signs that your condition could be putting your feet on the chopping block.