Close up of hands applying pressure on female ankle.Physiotherapist massaging feet with thumbs.

Podiatrists offer tips to diabetics for keeping their feet healthy.

From the JN Staff

Diabetes is steadily increasing in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there are an estimated 30.3 million cases in the U.S. For people with diabetes, the podiatrists of the Michigan Podiatric Medical Association (MPMA) share that taking care of their feet is especially vital.

More than 60 percent of all non-traumatic lower-limb amputations worldwide are related to complications from the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Diabetes is the inability to manufacture or properly use insulin, impairing the body’s ability to regulate sugar (glucose) levels that provide energy to cells and tissues throughout the body. Diabetes is associated with heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputations.

“The leading cause of hospitalization among people with diabetes is foot ulcers and infections, but most of those problems are largely preventable,” says Jodie Sengstock, D.P.M., MPMA’s director of professional relations. “It’s important for those with the disease to receive regular foot exams by a podiatrist.”

While there is no cure for diabetes, there are many ways of managing it and, in some cases, avoiding it. With proper diet, exercise, medical care and careful management at home, serious complications can be avoided and a person with diabetes may enjoy a full and active life.

Podiatrists are physicians and surgeons specially trained to treat foot conditions that can be caused by diabetes, such as neuropathy, infection, ulcers, calluses and poor circulation.

Nerve damage that diabetes causes may mean a person with an ulcer or injury may be unaware of it until it becomes infected. Infection can lead to partial or full amputation of the foot or lower leg. Regular care from a podiatrist can reduce amputation rates up to 80 percent, according to research of the American Podiatric Medical Association.

Persons with diabetes need to inspect their feet daily and be vigilant in looking for signs of ulcers, including irritation, redness, cracked or dry skin (especially around the heels) or drainage on their socks.

These foot health tips are recommended:

  • Discuss diabetes and the risks with family members. Diabetes can be hereditary, so talk to family members about monitoring blood sugar and foot health.
  • Never go barefoot. Always protect feet with the proper footwear and make sure socks and shoes are comfortable and fit well.
  • Trim toenails straight across, and never cut the cuticles. Seek immediate treatment for ingrown toenails, as they can lead to serious infection.
  • Never try to remove calluses, corns or warts by yourself. Over-the-counter products can burn the skin and cause irreparable damage to the foot.
  • Exercise. Walking can keep weight down and improve circulation.  Be sure to wear appropriate athletic shoes.
  • Keep feet elevated while sitting.
  • Wear thick, soft socks. Avoid socks with seams, which can rub and cause blisters or other skin injuries.
  • Have new shoes properly measured and fitted. Foot size and shape often changes over time.  Shoes that fit properly should not rub or cause irritation.
  • Wiggle toes and move feet and ankles up and down for five-minute sessions throughout the day.
  • Visit a podiatrist regularly — at least two times per year — to avoid unnecessary complications.
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