A Guide to Diabetic Foot Care
As the heat settles in to Southern California, it’s important to stay alert about your diabetic foot/feet’s health. Patients with diabetes need to be especially aware of their feet. Swelling, dryness, cracking from wearing sandals and/or walking barefoot are common foot problems in the summer for people with diabetes. To be informed about how your feet are coping visiting your Los Angeles podiatrist should be a priority before hitting the beach for some cool waves this summer.
Why Worry about Your Diabetic Foot/Feet?
According to the American Diabetes Association, people with diabetes often have poor circulation and nerve damage (neuropathy) in their extremities. Diabetes reduces blood flow to certain areas of the body, especially in your limbs, and that makes it even more difficult for injuries to heal properly. Nerve damage from diabetes can cause you have difficulty feeling things with your feet, like pain or temperatures. Worse yet, sometimes the damaged nerves give constant singles of tingling, burning, and/or pain, like millions of needles, which can mask a serious foot injury. Without checking your feet regularly you may unknowingly neglect a wound that needs treatment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded that people with diabetes were eight times as likely to lose a leg or foot to amputation as people without diabetes!
What do I Need to do to Keep my Feet Healthy?
For diabetics, the CDC recommends a complete foot examination at least four times a year or more if you have foot issues by a podiatrist with experience in diabetic foot care. It’s necessary to check for any changes (including sores, redness or temperature changes) and wash and dry your feet every day with mild soap and warm water. After you wash and dry your feet, you will want to moisturize your feet to avoid overly dry and cracking skin which allows an opening for bacteria to invade. Take caution to ensure that you do not apply lotion between the toes to avoid fungus. An important part of diabetic foot care is to clean, clip and file your toenails straight across. It is best to do this after the nails have become soft from washing. This will help you in avoiding an ingrown toenail, which can be very painful and dangerous for a diabetic.
Wear Shoes that Fit Properly.
Because your feet are so important, ensure that you are protecting them correctly with the right shoes. Shoes that pinch, are too tight in the toes or just overall too small can do a great deal of damage, often without you even knowing. Tight, narrow shoes limit circulation to the extremities like the toes and can cause extensive nerve and even tissue, bone and ligament damage.
Select a shoe that covers and protects your foot. Sandals, open toe heels and flip flops are not great at protecting your feet from things like burns or cuts. In some cases, custom orthotics can be made to fit your feet perfectly to assist in comfortable and safe shoes. Talk to an experienced podiatrist about your shoes and discuss the specific type of shoes that will work best for your feet.
Walk Barefoot with Extreme Caution.
The beach, pool, camping grounds, boats, locker rooms, even your own house are all potential danger zones for cuts, punctures, burns, and contact with bacteria. If you do choose to go barefoot outdoors, applying sunscreen your feet will protect from a sunburn. Cancers of the foot are among the most deadly due to the fact that it is not often spotted until the cancer is at a very advanced stage. Limit your risk of a foot melanoma by routinely examining your feet and seeing a foot doctor at the first sign of anything abnormal.
My Feet Hurt!
After a long day of enjoying the summer sometimes swelling can occur and become an uncomfortable end to an otherwise great day. Wearing support stockings and elevating your feet if swelling occurs is often recommended. If you do get a blister from all that walking, don’t pop it! Opening a blister to infection is risking serious complications for a person with diabetes. Clean and cover it with a dressing and watch it carefully. The best practice is to avoid shoes and walking until the wound or blister heals. Switch shoes and put on dry clean socks if you must continue to walk with a blister. Cuts, even small ones, must be treated immediately to avoid injection.
If you have symptoms that are recurring, painful, limit mobility or are concerning don’t hesitate to see a podiatrist. Los Angeles foot doctors are among the best and would be happy to both treat and educate you further on proper foot care techniques.
Be in control of your health. Don’t let the heat and long days keep you from enjoying the activities this summer. As long as you follow the careful instructions of your podiatrist, you will be able to enjoy this and other summers for even longer!
Dr. Baravarian been involved in athletics his entire life and played competitive tennis in high school and college. He has an interest in sports medicine, arthritis therapy and trauma/reconstructive surgery of the foot and ankle. He servers as a consultant to the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) tour, multiple running organizations and several shoe manufacturers. He is also fluent in five languages (English, French, Spanish, Farsi and Hebrew),
Podiatrist Dr. Bob Baravarian is available for consultation at the Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks and UCLA Westwood offices.
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