If you’re living with diabetes, there is a good chance that you may have encountered symptoms that impact the health of your legs and feet. As a common location for the development of chronic injuries, people who live with diabetes are at a higher risk for developing blisters, corns, and ulcers along the bottom of their feet and toes due to poor circulation and the gradual progression of diabetic neuropathy.
Because of this, adequate diabetic foot care is an essential component of healthy living for anyone diagnosed with diabetes. As an often poorly understood concept, we wanted to share this resource with those looking to learn more about how to clean diabetic feet.
How does being a diabetic affect your feet?
As a health condition that impacts the health and function of the entire body, people living with diabetes often experience symptoms in their lower extremities and feet. Caused by long-term exposure to chronically high blood sugar levels, damage to the nerves and blood vessels in the feet and legs results in the development of mild to severe symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. Some of the most common symptoms of diabetic feet include:
- Skin color and temperature changes
- Constant swelling or edema of the feet and ankles
- Cracked dry skin around the heel of the foot
- Having chronically ingrown and infected toenails
- Open sores on your feet that are taking long to heal
If you or someone you love has been experiencing any of these symptoms, we highly suggest getting your feet checked by your primary care provider.
How common is diabetic neuropathy?
While no two people experience symptoms the same way, it is common for those living with uncontrolled diabetes to have more profound symptoms of their disease. With many people either unaware of their condition or unable to get treatment, the number of Americans living with diabetic neuropathy continues to increase every year.
According to numbers from the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Diseases, about one-third to one-half of people who have diabetes experience peripheral neuropathy at a certain point in their lives.
Neuropathy is defined as the loss of feeling in the extremities, which prevents you from feeling cuts, sores, and temperature changes on your feet. Because of this, it is very common for people who have diabetic neuropathy to have chronically infected wounds on their feet, as they cannot feel when they become irritated or swollen. A simple untreated infection can lead to serious health conditions like gangrene and cellulitis.
In severe cases, some patients with poorly controlled diabetes may require amputation of their toes or feet if they are experiencing chronic neuropathy or infections. On average, patients who have one of their limbs amputated due to gangrene have an estimated lifespan of three years after the procedure, with only 40% of patients surviving past the 5-year mark. While complications like these don’t happen often, it is essential to learn how to perform proper diabetic foot care before getting to this life-threatening state of the disease.
Diabetic foot care tips
Understanding the key components of proper diabetic foot care is one of the best ways to keep your feet healthy and happy. With this in mind, we wanted to share our top five tips that will help you master diabetic foot care to better manage your disease with strength and confidence for the rest of your life.
- Track your blood sugar levels regularly
As a more preventative step to diabetic foot care, staying on top of your blood sugar levels with regular monitoring is one of the best ways to avoid symptoms in the first place. Routinely checking your blood sugar levels every morning and before bed is essential for better understanding how your body is adapting to your current diet and exercise plan. With regular tracking, you will be better able to keep your blood sugar levels within normal ranges, which reduces your risk of developing symptoms of diabetic neuropathy.
- Inspect your feet daily
Inspecting your feet thoroughly is a great practice to add to your existing morning routine. Starting with a visual inspection, check the color and overall appearance of your feet, being mindful of any chronic wounds or ulcers on the top, side, or bottom of the feet. If you have someone around the house, having them look at your feet is a helpful way to ensure that you aren’t missing any injuries that you can’t see on your own. If you are checking by yourself, placing a mirror on the floor will help you see the underside of your feet.
Next, we recommend a touch-based exam to see how profound your numbness is throughout your feet. By touching your toes and the top and bottom of your feet, you can assess if you are experiencing any recent changes to the sensation of these areas. Documenting these changes is an excellent way to monitor your symptoms.
This overall inspection aims to identify any potential problem areas before they become chronic and potentially infected wounds. This inspection is an essential component of diabetic foot care recommended for every person living with the disease.
- Use warm water to clean your feet
It's important to take good care of your feet, and an essential part of this is regular and proper washing. To reap the health benefits of washing your feet begin by immersing your feet in lukewarm water, ensuring the temperature isn't too hot. This is because excessively hot water can damage your skin, leading to dryness and irritation. Instead, opt for a temperature that is gentle and warm, similar to what you would use when bathing a newborn baby.
Regular foot hygiene is critical to prevent bacterial and fungal infections. Hence, aim to wash your feet daily. When doing so, pay particular attention to cleanliness, ensuring to wash each foot thoroughly. This includes the soles, tops, and even between the toes.
Bathing your feet in lukewarm water and keeping them clean through daily washing contribute significantly to your overall foot health. Just remember to always use water at a lukewarm temperature - the same as you would use for a newborn baby, as this temperature is comfortable, safe, and effective for cleansing without causing any harm to your skin.
- Keep your feet dry to reduce the risk of infection
After carefully washing your feet, thoroughly drying them is incredibly important. Places like in between the toes require extra care, as water in these areas will cause skin breakdown and an increased risk of infection. You can reduce your risk by slowly and carefully toweling off the spots between your toes after every bath or wash. Additionally, to prevent skin from cracking, use a moisturizer. But don’t excessively moisturize between the toes as it could result in a fungal infection.
- Don’t walk around barefooted (inside or outside)
When it comes to protecting your feet, walking around barefoot is just about the worst thing you can do if you have diabetes. Leaving your feet open and vulnerable to minor cuts and scrapes, people with diabetic neuropathy are always advised to wear footwear or socks when walking indoors or outdoors. Additionally, we recommend avoiding non-supportive footwear such as slippers, flip-flops, or other open-toe shoes because they cannot protect your toes from potential hazards.
- Avoid self-treating corns or calluses
It's critical to resist the urge to take matters into your own hands when it comes to dealing with foot problems such as corns or calluses. Avoid at-home treatments or what some may refer to as "bathroom surgery." This includes the use of medicated pads, which may seem like a convenient solution but can potentially harm your skin and exacerbate the condition.
Corns and calluses can be a sign of underlying issues or may result from improper footwear. Attempting to self-treat these conditions can lead to infections or other complications if not done properly. Furthermore, using medicated pads without professional advice might lead to skin irritation or even chemical burns, particularly if you have sensitive skin or if they are used incorrectly.
Instead of risking these potential complications, it's always best to consult with a healthcare professional for the appropriate treatment of corns and calluses. A podiatrist, for example, is a specialist in foot health who can accurately diagnose your condition and provide safe and effective treatment options.
- Wear socks to bed
Another diabetic foot care tip is to ensure your feet are kept warm, especially during the night. If your feet often feel cold in bed, a simple and effective solution is to wear socks. This can provide the necessary warmth and can also help in preventing dryness, which is common in individuals with diabetes.
However, it's important to remember that not all heat sources are safe for warming your feet. Specifically, you should avoid using heating pads or hot water bottles. These heat sources can be excessively hot and may cause burns, especially as diabetes can often lead to reduced sensitivity in your feet, making it difficult to perceive when something is too hot. The risk of injury from these heat sources is too high.
Wearing socks to bed is a safer alternative. Choose socks that are comfortable, well-fitted, and made of materials that allow your feet to breathe, such as cotton or wool. This way, you can keep your feet warm without risking any harm from excessive heat.
- Refrain from smoking
For individuals living with diabetes, it is strongly recommended to refrain from smoking. This is because smoking has a detrimental effect on the circulatory system, specifically causing constriction of the blood vessels, which leads to a reduction in blood flow. This impact is particularly concerning for the extremities like your feet.
In the context of diabetes, good circulation is crucial to ensure your feet receive adequate nutrients and oxygen, which promotes healing and maintains overall foot health. Restricted blood flow caused by smoking can exacerbate the complications of diabetes, increasing the risk of foot ulcers, infections, and even amputation in severe cases.
In addition, smoking also reduces your body's ability to fight infection. When combined with the already heightened risk for foot problems in people with diabetes, this significantly increases the potential for serious foot complications.
- Support your feet with diabetic socks
Finally, as an essential component of proper diabetic foot care, wearing high-quality diabetic socks is a great way to keep your feet dry and supported throughout the day. The best quality diabetic socks offer a variety of benefits, including:
- Unrestricted design that won’t leave painful calf marks
- Seamless toes to prevent irritation
- Padded bottom for additional support
- Made from antibacterial and odor-resistant
At Viasox, we are proud to be the world’s first fancy diabetic sock brand. With a wide variety of diabetic socks available for single or bulk online orders, there is no better place to find fashionable and comfortable socks perfect for keeping your feet healthy.
Take care of your feet with Viasox
Our team at Viasox is committed to helping our customers find quality products and educational resources about how to best care for their feet. As an essential part of any diabetes treatment plan, talk to your doctor to learn more about the many health benefits that quality diabetic socks can offer.With a diverse range of diabetic socks, Viasox products are a must-have for anyone living with diabetic neuropathy. Shop our collection online today and have your new favorite socks delivered to your front door in no time. There is no better way to keep your feet happy and healthy than by wearing comfortable and breathable diabetic socks from Viasox!