Diabetics, especially those with long-standing, poorly-controlled disease, are at significant risk for simple foot abrasions turning into life-threatening infections. In addition to doing what you can to keep your blood sugar under control, you should actively try to prevent some common foot injuries.
Limit The Professional Pedicures
Although professional pedicures are relaxing and may be easier if you have limited mobility, many of the pedicure supplies used in salons are too abrasive for people with diabetes. For example, many salons use metal files to help remove dead skin on your feet and smooth corns. Unfortunately, the sharp metal increases the likelihood of cuts and other abrasions on your feet. When you need to take care of dead skin on your feet, find less abrasive methods of exfoliation. If you allow your feet to soak long enough in warm soapy water, it will make the dead skin easier to remove. Mix baking soda with a liquid soap and gently wash your feet. The fine granules in baking soda are excellent for exfoliation and are unlikely to cause abrasions.
If you enjoy having acrylic overlays or gel polish on your toenails, specifically request that your nail tech use a gentler method of filing your nails. Electric drills can easily slip and cause damage to the skin around your toenails. Although it is more effort for your nail tech and more expensive for you, soaking away any acrylic or gel with acetone and filing it away by hand is much safer.
Prevent Bug Bites
Bug bites are an easily overlooked problem for diabetics, but even a simple mosquito bite can turn into cellulitis. Try to proactively deal with any pests inside your home, such as spiders and cockroaches, by maintaining a professional pest control schedule. If you enjoy leaving windows or doors open, make sure you have a good screen or storm door to keep flying pests outside.
When you want to enjoy the outdoors, especially in the warmer months, carry a small container of bug repellant and make sure you spray around your ankles. Try purchasing netting or a screen for porches or balconies so you can continue to enjoy the outdoors with less risk of bug bites. Although bug bites can happen anywhere on your body, they are especially dangerous on your lower extremities due to circulatory problems associated with diabetes.
If you experience any bug bites, resist the temptation to scratch. Try applying a cold compress and cortisone creams to minimize the itch. Certain types of bug bites may be especially troublesome and can cause tremendous itching, such as bites by the no-see-ums. If you cannot gain control over bug bites on your own, speak with your doctor to determine if prescription antihistamines or steroids can minimize the reaction.
Keep Your Shoes Simple
Less is more when it comes to shoes and diabetics. You should reduce or eliminate wearing styles that are more likely to cause foot injuries. This includes high heels, shoes with straps, and narrow toe boxes. High heels often put significant pressure on your feet and may lead to pressure sores. Both straps and narrow toe boxes can cause your shoes to dig in or rub against your feet, leading to abrasions.
Another consideration is the fit of your shoes. When you try on shoes, make sure they are not too large and the back of your shoe is not rubbing against your heel. This can be more of a problem with dress shoes than sneakers, because sneakers often come up higher on the ankle. When selecting boots, especially calf-length or higher, consider how your legs and feet expand throughout the day. Since poor peripheral circulation can be a major concern with diabetics, the problem can be exacerbated if you have shoes (or even socks) that compress your legs.
If you are in the market for calf-length boots, try shopping for them on a day when you are running errands or have been on your feet for a while. This can give you an idea of how much your legs may expand toward the end of the day and if the boots will compress your legs too much. Also look for styles with an elastic panel on the side. This gives the leg of the boot a little extra stretch. Styles with laces or adjustable buckles are other methods to help accommodate your legs, because the amount of room you need may change frequently.
When you have diabetes, you need to be especially vigilant about the health of your feet. By preventing some of the most common injuries, you can reduce the likelihood of severe infections.
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