Diabetes is a disease that affects every part of the body, even when the diabetes is under control. Diabetics, because of the nature of their disease, have fewer defenses against everyday wear and tear, especially where the feet are concerned. Increased blood sugar affects the feet in the following ways:
- The sugar affects the nerves of the feet, causing peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy is a disease which can produce anything from strange feelings in the feet (burning, tingling, numbness, etc.), to a complete loss of feeling in the feet. The lack of proper feeling makes the diabetic more likely to injure their feet without knowing it. This makes the diabetic more suseptible to infections; fractures which are not felt, and do not heal properly; and severe bone and joint disease which changes the contour of the foot. See Charcot Foot for more information.
- Sugar also affects the smaller blood vessels in the feet causing peripheral vascular disease (P.V.D.). P.V.D. decreases the amount of blood, nutrients, and oxygen that are brought to the skin, fat, muscles, joints, and bones of the feet. This causes: tissues to be absorbed, an inability to properly heal everything from small cuts to broken bones, and just plain fatigue and weakness of the feet.
- Absoprtion of the natural protective fatty pad on the bottom of the feet. This is due to P.V.D. and/or the natural aging process. When the fat pad becomes thinned or completely absorbed, it cannot protect the skin properly from normal bone pressure. This puts tremendous stress on the skin which underlies these bones, and can cause inflammation, calluses, and eventually skin ulcers which may become infected. These problems may become worse without the diabetic knowing it, if peripheral neuropathy is present.
To sum up, the diabetic foot is "at risk," even when the blood sugar is controlled. In my practice, I have found that Diabetic Custom-Made Orthotics will greatly reduce the risk of foot disease. These special orthotics act as a replacement for the thinning fat pad on the bottom of the feet, thus protecting the skin from excessive bone pressure. These orthotics will also gently support the arch and all the bones and joints of the feet. Our orthotics are made of durable, comfortable, space-age materials. They are lightweight, and will fit in all flat shoes. Custom-made orthotics are the diabetic's "ounce of prevention" that may eliminate a "pound of cure" later on.
Other risk relievers:
- Orthofeet Self-Forming Insoles: Designed for the diabetic who wants to prevent foot problems. In my practice I prescribe these innersoles because they help to protect the thinning fat pad on the bottom of the foot, thus protecting painful pressure points and calluses. They also help to relieve foot fatigue. This is a long-lasting innersole, made of lightweight but durable materials, that will fit in any shoe and can be moved from one pair of shoes to another. These do not duplicate the protection that custom-made orthotics provide, but they are a help.
- Examine your feet daily includung the tops, bottoms, and between your toes. Look for inflammed areas, cuts, peeling and breaks in the skin, rashes, and swelling. Press on your nail to see if they are painful or ingrown. Touch your feet and make sure the temperature is the same in both, and that they are not cooler then the rest of your body. Test to see that you have good feeling in the bottom of both feet, by gently moving your finger from heel to toes. If any of the above is abnormal, see a podiatrist immeditely.
- Wear properly fitted shoes, with uppers made of soft materials. The toe box (the area where the toes lie in the shoe) should be deep and wide to reduce pressure on the toes, and the heels should be no higher than 3/4 inch. Seamless socks and shoes cause less problems then those with seams. Always wear shoes and socks; they protect the feet from injury. Do not walk barefoot!
- Wash your feet daily, with warm water (not hot). Dry well, especially between the toes. Cut your nails straight across, do not dig in the corners (if the skin around the nail is red, swollen, moist, or painful, you may have an infection, see a podiatrist immediately. At bed time, massage a moisturizing cream into your feet to prevent dry skin and cracks. Do not use chemical corn and callus removers; they usually contain an acid, which can burn sensitive diabetic skin. And finally, see your family doctor regularly to help keep your diabetes under control.
- We recommend diabetics receive regular foot check-ups by their doctor.