Managing Diabetes to Stay on Your Feet
Prevention & Treatment One of the biggest symptoms of diabetes is one you might not even feel. Decreased blood flow and nerve dysfunction can put extremities (like your feet) in serious danger.
Managing your type 1 or type 2 diabetes is extremely important to reduce complications associated with increased blood sugars. Different cell types within the body respond to high blood sugar in different ways. When blood sugars are high, cells in the eyes, kidneys and nerves begin to function improperly, resulting in complications associated with vision, kidney function and nerve health.
A multidisciplinary diabetes care team can help you manage your blood sugar and the complications of diabetes, among which problems with the nerves in the feet and legs are two of the most common. Symptoms might include numbness, tingling, burning or pins and needles sensations.
The risks of numbness
When the nerves in your feet are not functioning properly, you lose the ability to feel injuries or even minor irritants that could result in serious long-term complications. A burn from hot water, being too close to a hot stove or walking barefoot on hot pavement could become a serious issue. A blister from shoes that are too tight could turn into a devastating infection.
That’s why your podiatrist, as part of your diabetes care team, will encourage you to check your feet each day for changes in color, temperature, appearance or shape. Use a mirror if you have trouble reaching your feet.
“Caring for your feet is a vitally important part of managing your diabetes and its potential complications.”
Having good blood flow to the feet and legs is also important. Just as diabetes affects the blood vessels in the heart, it can affect blood vessels in the legs and feet. Blood vessels can become clogged and prevent blood from reaching the feet. Poor circulation as a result of those clogged vessels can cause cool or cold feet or cramping in the calves when walking even short distances. Our feet and legs need blood to function and remain healthy.
Preventing serious dangers
Problems with nerve function and poor blood flow can make healing even a small blister or sore difficult. Any open wound becomes a portal for bacteria, which could lead to serious infections. Infections may require treatment with strong antibiotics, surgery, hospitalization and even amputation.
Caring for your feet is a vitally important part of managing your diabetes and its potential complications. Check your feet every day, avoid walking barefoot, don’t smoke, manage your diabetes with your team of health-care providers and see a podiatrist at least once every year.