It’s summer at last! Time for barbecues, beach bumming, and enjoying sweaty outdoor activities with your favorite friends and family. Now that the sunny days of summer have arrived, the last thing you want to worry about is your chronic illness. But, for about 29 million Americans who suffer from Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, summertime can actually be one of the most dangerous seasons of the year.
Diabetes can put a damper on your summer fun, but here are some tips to stay safe and healthy during these long hot months.
The rising temperatures and blistering sun make for perfect swimming weather, but they also contribute to an increased risk of heatstroke and dehydration. Sweating is your body’s natural cooling system – as you perspire, droplets of sweat evaporate off the surface of your skin, taking some of your body heat and cooling you down.
Sweating depletes your body of water and electrolytes. Keep plenty of water and electrolyte supplements on hand, and hydrate often and before you get thirsty.
Ditch Diabetic Itch
One of the most common annoyances of diabetes is what’s known as diabetic itch. Patients with chronic Type 2 diabetes often experience reduced blood flow to the skin, resulting in extreme itching and scratching.
Apply plenty of sunscreen when outdoors and reapply often – even on cloudy days. Sunburns on top of diabetic itch can be extremely painful, and scratching the blisters could lead to infection.
Keep Stock of Medication
If you take insulin, make sure to bring enough with you to your summer outings. You’ll also need to find a way to keep your insulin cool, but not too cool – excessive heat, as well as freezing cold, can spoil your medication. Never leave your insulin in your car on a hot day. Keep it in a gel or battery-powered cool pack. If your insulin starts to look cloudy, you know it’s ruined.
Don’t forget to throw plenty of glucose monitors and monitoring strips in your tote bag, along with your sunscreen, shades, and summer reading.
Take Care of Your Feet in the Heat
Keep your feet clean, cool, and dry to stave off bacteria. No sandals for you, even at the beach! Wear well-fitted, closed-toed shoes to protect your feet from sharp objects.
Be on the lookout for any tenderness, swelling, redness, wounds, or ulcers developing on your feet. Check your feet daily for cuts. If you find a cut, clean it and apply an antibiotic ointment and a bandage, then call your foot and ankle specialist immediately.
Here are the two most dangerous foot conditions that patients with diabetes need to be cautious of all year round.
1. Diabetic Foot Infection
Diabetes patients often exhibit neuropathy – nerve damage – due to poor circulation. As a result, patients often lose feeling in their feet and are more prone to infections of the foot. Something as small as stepping on a bottle cap or getting a seashell stuck in your shoe could cut your feet and cause you serious problems.
Foot infections can be very painful, and for people with poor blood flow, very difficult to heal. Open sores or ulcers appear on the bottom of the feet, most often on the heels and balls of the foot, but also can appear on the toes and sides or top of the foot.
If left untreated, a severe diabetic foot infection is a life-threatening condition, and could eventually require amputation. If you discover a lesion or open wound on your foot, have it checked out right away by your foot and ankle specialist. Even if it’s just a blister or small cut, do not try to take care of it on your own!
Osteomyelitis is a complication of severe diabetic foot infections. A lesion where part of the bone is exposed leaves the bone and bone marrow prone to infection and inflammation. Osteomyelitis is a serious danger to the health of patients with diabetes, whose immune systems are already weakened by the disease.
Did you know that osteomyelitis is actually frequently missed in diagnoses of foot infections? It’s true, which is why it is so important to see a foot and ankle specialist trained to spot rare foot conditions.
Osteomyelitis can be treated with a rigorous assault of antibiotics, lasting between 4 and 8 weeks on average. Some cases require the surgical removal of infected bone, bone grafting, bone transfer, or even amputation. At UFAI, we prefer to use the least invasive options possible and we have developed several advanced techniques for treating this condition without major surgery.
If you have questions regarding diabetic foot care or would like to schedule an appointment with one of our foot and ankle experts, please call (877) 989-9110 or visit us at www.footankleinstitute.com.
Our patients are our number one priority and we consider them, along with our own families and our dedicated staff, to be our greatest assets.
We are driven to get our patients back to their normal activities with the highest level of function, in the least amount of time, using the least invasive treatments possible. From start to finish, we are with you every step of the way.
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