If you have diabetes, you probably already know you have a higher risk of developing complications in your feet. These complications arise due to prolonged periods of high blood sugar. The most common diabetic foot problems are diabetic neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease.
Diabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that makes it difficult to experience sensation in the feet. This leads to increased risk for wounds because you cannot feel when your foot is cut, irritated, or develops blisters. Over time these may become infected, and gangrene can develop, putting you at risk for amputation.
Peripheral vascular disease develops as a result of a change to blood vessels due to diabetes. If you have peripheral vascular disease, the blood vessels to your extremities become blocked, making it hard for your feet to get enough blood. As a result, wounds heal slower, and your feet are more prone to infection.
As a specially trained diabetes foot care expert, board-certified podiatrist Jennifer Tauber, DPM of New Canaan Podiatry can help you prevent complications related to diabetic foot wounds. However, there are things you can do at home to help treat your diabetic foot.
Read on to discover five steps for nursing your diabetic foot at home.
1. Control your blood sugar.
When it comes to nursing your diabetic foot at home, the first step should always be controlling your blood sugar. This is because the damaging impact of elevated blood sugar is what creates problems in the feet in the first place.
Studies show that managing blood sugar levels prevents further nerve damage and reduces pain. There is even evidence that some damage can be reversed. As such, it’s important to begin with this crucial step when caring for your diabetic foot.
2. Give your feet lukewarm water baths.
Lukewarm (not hot!) water is an effective way to keep your feet clean and provide therapeutic relief. Warm water increases blood flow to the feet, and my gently washing them with a soft washcloth or sponge you’ll help keep infection at bay.
After bathing your feet, dry by blotting or patting — don’t rub with a towel as this may irritate the skin and any wounds. Use a moisturizer to keep the skin from itching or cracking, but avoid the area between the toes to keep fungal infections from developing.
3. Practice good nail care.
To avoid further damage to the feet, be sure to practice good nail care. Though it’s important to keep nails trimmed, be sure not to cut them too short to avoid ingrown nails. Cut nails straight across, and use a file to smooth out the edges.
The best time to trim toenails is after bathing or soaking when nails are soft. If you find it difficult to trim your nails, Dr. Tauber and team can help.
4. Wear diabetes-friendly footwear.
The nerve damage from diabetic neuropathy means it can be challenging to know whether or not the shoes you’re wearing fit correctly. As such, it’s important to be measured and fitted before buying footwear.
Some diabetic patients find the best footwear is made especially for them. Podiatrists, like Dr. Tauber, can help fit you for specially crafted diabetic shoes and inserts to ensure the most comfort and best care for your feet.
If you look for your own footwear, shop later in the day to account for swelling, and be sure to buy shoes made from material that can give to accommodate fluctuations in foot size, like soft leather. Wear socks, and check your feet daily for blisters, cuts, and wounds.
5. Start an exercise program.
Exercise increases your heart rate and blood flow, improving circulation all over the body. To help combat the effects of poor blood flow and damaged nerves in the extremities, try beginning a simple exercise program.
Research indicates a regular walking program can prevent the onset of diabetic neuropathy and slow its progress in patients already exhibiting symptoms. What’s more? Exercise helps reduce blood sugar making managing diabetes easier.
Be sure to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
Don’t hesitate to see professional help
At New Canaan Podiatry, Dr. Tauber focuses on treating the whole patient, not just your problematic foot. She will collaborate with your other health care providers to ensure your diabetes management plan is on track. She also customizes your diabetic foot care plan for your specific needs.
Schedule your diabetic foot care exam at New Canaan Podiatry today. Request an appointment online, or call the office directly to book.