A 2019 report from the Centers for Disease Control estimated that 28.7 million women, men, and children had either type 2 diabetes or the rarer type 1 diabetes. That figure includes both patients who were officially diagnosed with the disease and estimates about those who haven’t yet been diagnosed.
About 10% of those who were diagnosed with diabetes started using insulin to control their blood glucose levels within a year of diagnosis. While you may wonder what a diabetes diagnosis has to do with your feet, your disease puts you at risk for serious consequences related to your foot health, whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
At Apple Podiatry Group, our expert podiatrists Jarna Rathod-Bhatt, DPM, and Rahul Bhatt, DPM, specialize in treating diabetic feet and keeping them healthy. At our offices in Arlington, Flower Mound, and Irving, Texas, you can feel confident that your feet are getting the attention and care they need to stay healthy.
Here’s what to know about how — and why — to keep them that way between your podiatry visits.
High blood glucose damages your blood vessels
An important reason to control your blood glucose levels through lifestyle changes and — if needed — insulin or other medications is that high blood sugar damages the walls of your blood vessels. Over time, the vessels grow stiff with plaques that restrict blood flow.
The vessels in your feet are especially at risk. The veins in your feet already have an extra-hard job to do because they must work against gravity to pump deoxygenated blood back toward your heart.
If your feet don’t get plenty of nourishing, oxygenated blood and aren’t clearing toxins regularly, your skin and other tissues begin to degrade. You may develop symptoms such as:
- Neuropathy (numbness or tingling)
- Pain and cramping in legs and buttocks
- Change of shape of feet and toes
- Loss of hair on legs
- Dry, cracked skin on soles
- Thick, yellow toenails
- Loss of sensation in feet
- Fungus infections
- Sores and ulcers
Untreated and unmanaged, your diabetes can eventually rob your feet of oxygen and nutrients, leading to a condition called gangrene. The only cure for gangrene is to amputate the foot. In addition to working with your podiatrist and other health care team members, you can make lifestyle changes that save your feet.
Smoking tobacco restricts blood flow, particularly to your feet. Smoke also dries out your tissues, such as your skin and muscles, making them more susceptible to damage.
Eat more whole foods
In addition to cutting out sugar, switch to a whole-foods diet that emphasizes fresh vegetables, high-quality protein sources, good fats, and low-glycemic fruits.
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Trans fats
- Seed oils
- Leafy greens
- Cooked non-starchy vegetables
- Small amounts of yams and sweet potatoes
- Pastured meats, poultry, and eggs
- Wild-caught seafood
- Healthy fats, such as olive oil
A healthy diet minimizes the amount of glucose in your bloodstream. It also provides the nutrients that your cells need to build healthy skin cells and blood vessels.
Exercise benefits your entire body, including your organs. But it also increases blood and oxygen flow to your feet. You don’t have to join a gym or go crazy with constant workouts, either: Just 10-20 minutes a day of vigorous walking, cycling, or swimming beats a one-hour weekly workout.
Care for your feet daily
Even though it may be awkward to do so, get into the habit of looking over your feet every day. You might find this easiest to do while you’re in bed. Stay alert to changes that could indicate damage such as:
Be sure you don’t try to cut off or melt away corns and calluses yourself; you could damage your skin. Contact us instead. Also, be sure to:
- Wash your feet every day
- Dry them thoroughly, including between toes
- Never go barefoot
- Change out of wet socks
- Wear well-fitting, comfortable shoes
- Trim toenails regularly, straight across
- Get your feet checked regularly
If you have diabetes, be sure your feet are healthy or get help with any foot-related symptoms you have by contacting us by phone or online form today.