Diabetes is a disease in which the body is not able to filter glucose levels properly, and that leads to damage of the nerves and blood vessels. When this damage occurs, two main problems happen, nerve damage and poor blood flow. These conditions can lead to many diabetic foot problems.
Diabetic nerve damage is also called neuropathy. When you have neuropathy, your sensation of pain in your feet is diminished. This loss of pain sensation could make one unaware of a sore, blister, cut or rash until it becomes infected. Neuropathy will affect the amount of moisture delivered to your skin and may cause dry, cracked feet. These cracks can also become infected.
Peripheral Vascular Disease
Damage to your blood vessels, or peripheral vascular disease, leads to poor blood flow to your legs and feet. This condition impacts how well your body will be able to heal a cut or blister. Smoking also decreases blood flow to your extremities and will compound the lack of blood flow.
Neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease work together to create major problems for your feet. For example; you have a rock in your shoe, but you can’t feel it under your toe because of neuropathy. By the end of the day, you have a blister on your toe and it does not heal well because lack of blood flow to your foot. The blister gets infected, and excess glucose in your bloodstream (due to diabetes) feeds on the germs on the infected toe. If this sore does not heal, it may turn to gangrene. If your physician can’t keep this from spreading, you may have to have your toe, foot or part of your leg amputated. Gangrene is a condition where the skin and flesh around a wound turns black and dies.
Calluses on your feet are also common when you have diabetes, usually due to poor fitting shoes. You should prevent calluses from forming in the first place, by gently using a pumice stone while your skin is wet. Rub lotion on your feet directly after using the pumice stone. Calluses need to be treated by a doctor. If left without proper care, calluses may get thick and fall off, leave an open wound in the skin, and become infected.
How can you avoid diabetic foot problems? Stop smoking. Buy comfortable, properly fitting shoes. Inspect your feet every day, preferably at night after a long day of usage. Look for redness, sores, cracks, blisters, calluses, cuts and rashes. If you are unable to bend down to look at your feet, use a mirror, or better yet, get someone to check for you. Wash your feet every day in warm water; avoid hot water, as it dries the skin out. Rub a good lotion on them; make sure the foot is completely dry before putting on socks and shoes. Make sure the area between the toes is dry as well. Use a pumice stone on calluses every day. Trim your toenails carefully, or have a professional do it who understands the proper way to avoid skin injury. Wear socks, shoes or slippers to protect your feet. Get the proper amount of exercise each day to keep circulation moving to your feet.
You should be under a physician’s care to help protect your feet from diabetic foot problems.