For those living with diabetes, the long-term risk of amputation can be very worrying. Diabetes UK has put together 10 tips to reduce the risk of this and other health complications following diagnosis
If you have diabetes, it’s especially important to take good care of your feet. This is because the condition itself can reduce the blood supply to your feet and cause a loss of feeling, otherwise known as ‘peripheral neuropathy’.
The limited blood flow to your feet also means injuries may not heal well, while reduced sensation can make it difficult even to notice when injury occurs. Long-term, non-healing injuries can lead to tissue damage and, in severe cases, even amputation.
However, following a diabetes diagnosis, there are some easy precautions to take to reduce your risk of more serious complications down the line. Diabetes UK has these 10 simple tips to follow to help look after your feet.
1. Get help to quit smoking. As smoking also makes it harder for your blood to circulate round your body, it’s even more important to give up the habit following a diabetes diagnosis. For further support on how to quit, visit the NHS Smokefree site or call its helpline on 0300 123 104.
2.Manage your blood sugars, cholesterol and blood pressure. Making sure you keep your blood sugar levels within the target range will help to prevent damage to your feet. It’s also important to try to manage healthy blood pressure and cholesterol. If you are concerned about any of these areas, consult your GP, who will be able to offer you further advice.
3.Check your feet every day. It’s easy to incorporate a foot inspection into your daily routine. Have a good look at your feet before you put your socks on in the morning, or before going to bed. Use a mirror to look at the soles of your feet if you’re struggling to lift your legs. If you notice any changes to your feet, consult a healthcare professional immediately.
4. Eat a healthy, balanced diet and stay active. We all know that following the right diet and incorporating more activity into our daily routine is important for our health. And it’s particularly important when you have diabetes. Seek the help of a dietitian, if necessary, so that you gain a better understanding of how food affects you. Staying active will reduce your risk of foot implications and help you to manage your diabetes.
5.Cut your nails carefully. When living with diabetes, if you accidentally pierce the skin when cutting your nails, it could lead to other injuries. Make sure not to cut your toenails too short, or at the side. File off any short corners and clean them gently with a nail brush rather than the sharp point of nail scissors.
6.Make sure your footwear fits. It’s important to make sure your shoes and socks fit well. If they’re too tight or too loose, they could rub your feet and cause injury. When choosing a pair of shoes, make sure they’re broad fitting, have a rounded toe and a flat or low heel. Choose a style that incorporates laces or a buckle to stop your feet sliding around.
7.Use moisturising cream every day. Keeping your skin healthy and well-moisturised with an emollient cream will prevent dryness and cracking. However, don’t put moisturiser between your toes, as a build-up can result in fungus growth. Avoid putting talcum powder between the toes, too, as this can cause dryness.
8.Don’t use blades or corn plasters. Using corn plasters or blades to remove corns and tough skin can cause damage. A gentler option is a pumice stone, but make sure to use these with care to avoid damaging the skin. If you have corns, or other skin problems, speak to a podiatrist.
9.Get expert advice. Although you need to check your feet daily, it’s important that a trained professional checks your bare feet once a year. By doing this, they can assess your risk of developing a more serious problem. If you notice anything unusual, consult a professional immediately rather than waiting for your annual appointment.
10. Keep in contact. Note down the numbers of your GP surgery, foot specialist and out-of-hours service somewhere safe so that you can easily find them. That way, if you do have any concerns, you’ll know who to talk to.
Find further advice on the Diabetes UK website.
Discover more info on eating healthy with diabetes by visiting our diabetes hub.