Whether you have diabetes or not, you should know that one of the consequences of having diabetes are feet and toe problems. This article discusses a few different ways in which you can prevent diabetic feet and toe problems. Although intended to help inform, it’s important to visit your local medical professional if you are diabetic suffering with feet or toe pain.
Without early intervention, short-term pain can develop into debilitative pain and even amputation. Seek prevention early!
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition that causes blood sugar levels to become dangerously high. There are two types:
- Type 1: The immune system destroys insulin-producing cells
- Type 2: The Body cells do not respond to insulin and they do not produce enough insulin as well
The Link Between Diabetes and Foot and Toe Problems
The huge portion of the link has to do with blood supply. Raised blood sugar levels (blood glucose) affects blood flow around your body, often resulting in a lack of blood circulation in your foot and toes.
A lack of blood circulation to your feet can cause a variety of foot problems such as:
- Healing from sores and cuts
- Cramps (in feet and legs)
- Foot ulcers
What may initially appear as a relatively minor foot complaint can soon develop into something more serious, which means you should take any and all foot problems seriously—especially if you have diabetes to prevent diabetic feet and toe problems.
5 Tips to Prevent Foot and Toe Problems
Check Your Feet Every day
Due to diabetes, any minor foot complaint can quickly become more serious. It is necessary to check your feet every day as a preventative measure. When you take your socks off in the evening, have a good look at your feet. Is there any swelling? Are there color changes from the previous day?
If you have difficulty in lifting your feet up, it is a good idea to use a mirror to see if there any changes to the soles of your feet. Another simple check is feeling in your feet and toes. Is there any numbness or loss of feeling?
It is recommended that you do the simple “Touch the toes test” as advocated by many diabetes organizations. The link takes you to a useful explanatory video about the test and results system.
Look After Your Feet
The simplest prevention measure is to take time to look after your feet.
Here are some tips:
- Wash your feet every day to keep them clean and reduce the chances of infection.
- Wear shoes that are a decent fit. If shoes are too tight you will be raising the risk of getting ulcers or nail problems.
- Avoid walking barefoot to reduce the chances of getting cuts.
- Manage your toenails by cutting them regularly.
If you have particularly hard skin on your feet, make an appointment with a foot specialist (podiatrist), for helpful advice.
Be Active and Eat a Healthy Balanced Diet
Exercise is one of the best ways to improve blood circulation in your body. To stimulate blood supply to your feet, there are several exercises you can try such as:
- Toe raise, point and curl
- Toe extension
- Marble pickup
- Sand walking
The link above gives visual demonstrations of nine different foot exercises to stimulate muscle strength and blood circulation.
A healthy balanced diet is also supremely important. For specific dietary advice, you should visit your local dietician who will be able to give you an in-depth consultation on the links between food and diabetes.
It is important to note that dietary advice will differ depending on type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
Smoking is harmful to anyone. But for diabetics, it can be particularly harmful as smoking can negatively impact your blood circulation, which inevitably means your feet and toes will suffer as a result.
If you are a heavy smoker, the need to quit is more urgent in terms of preventing any diabetes-related foot complaints.
Find the best solution to quit smoking that suits you and be accountable.
See a Doctor
If you are a diabetic with foot or toe problems, do not hesitate to see a doctor. You may think that a blister that hasn’t healed for a week or so is a minor issue—you may be right—but the potential risks diabetics if minor issues go untreated are so huge, that you are a better-off making an appointment.
Seeing a doctor sooner rather than later is a preventative measure. Do not forget that!
Cases, where you should see a doctor urgently, are:
- Presence of discharge from a wound
- Breaks in the skin of your foot
- Red, blue or dark colors in your foot skin
- Extra swelling in the location of a blister
- Swelling near an ulcer
Don’t feel guilty for wanting to see a doctor about minor foot issues. For diabetics, it is important that you get expert advice as early as you can.
Wrapping It Up
Foot and toe problems are common issues associated with diabetes. While the tips outlined above may not be able to eradicate the chances of developing problems, they can at least help improve the chances to prevent diabetic feet and toe complications.
Most of the advice is universal to any type 1 or type 2 diabetic. However, diet recommendations are more type-specific, therefore it’s best to do your own extensive online research or visit a dietician to get the most relevant advice.
The useful thing about these tips for preventing diabetic foot and toe problems is that they should be accessible and easy steps to follow. If you are concerned or fearful of potential foot complaints, simply take some more time to look at your feet and improve circulation through exercise and a good diet.
If you do develop a minor foot or toe issues, the message is clear: visit a doctor to get the best preventative care.