Did you know that at least 50% of all foot amputations in the United States are due to diabetes? Diabetes can cause several problems in your body, especially if you don’t manage your blood sugar. When it comes to the feet, there are two main problems people face: diabetic neuropathy, and peripheral vascular disease.
Let’s take a look at what these two issues are, and how you can protect yourself from them.
What Is Diabetic Neuropathy?
Diabetic neuropathy is a result of nerve damage due to high blood sugar—usually, the nerves that send signals from your hands and feet (peripheral neuropathy). This damage takes place over time and can cause numbness in the extremities, which makes it difficult for people to know when their feet are irritated or wounded.
The lack of sensation in the feet can cause people to ignore infections, cuts, sores, and blisters, which can lead to the development of ulcers and even gangrene, for which they may need an amputation.
What Is Peripheral Vascular Disease?
Peripheral vascular disease is a disease of the blood vessels outside the heart and brain, and is usually caused by a buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries. Diabetes causes changes in the blood vessels and arteries, and like diabetic neuropathy, these changes affect the extremities.
Reduced blood flow to and from the hands and feet can cause pain, infection, and slow healing of wounds. In the case of a severe infection, a person with peripheral vascular disease may have to get an amputation.
- Control Your Blood Sugar
Managing your blood sugar levels is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself from nerve damage. What this means is ensuring that you eat a healthy diet, follow an exercise plan, take your medication, and keep track of your blood sugar.
- Pay Attention to Symptoms
With any disease, the earlier you catch it, the better. Make sure to be aware of the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease. The most common symptoms to look for are numbness, pain, tingling, and more, but talk to your doctor about any sudden changes in digestion, urination, bowel movements, and sexual function.
- Check Your Feet Daily
Make sure to check your feet thoroughly every day to monitor any potential cuts or blisters. Since diabetic foot problems cause a lack of sensation, you may not feel them until they become too infected.
- Engage with Proactive Foot Care
Wash your feet with lukewarm water and a gentle cleanser each day. Remember to use warm, not hot water, and dry every part of your feet thoroughly, since trapped moisture can exacerbate problems.
Additionally, moisturize daily to prevent cracks. High glucose levels can cause cracked skin, which can make it easier for bacteria to get under the skin. However, use a small amount to make sure your skin feels dry and not damp or sticky after.
Trim your toenails to prevent any ingrowths and avoid being barefoot. Try to wear socks as much as possible, even when wearing shoes for an extra protective barrier. Finally, talk to your doctor about getting fitted with orthotics to help with any pain from nerve damage.
Living with diabetes can be difficult, but the right care and resources can make it a lot easier. If you have trouble accessing the diabetic supplies you need, don’t worry—that’s what Helping Diabetics USA is here for.