People who live with diabetes know the importance of taking care of themselves through diet, exercise and, sometimes, insulin therapy. But many may not realize that good diabetes care starts from the ground up.
Two common complications of diabetes – neuropathy (or nerve damage) and poor circulation – can pose serious risks to patients’ feet. Neuropathy causes numbness in the feet, which means that the patient could cut his foot without realizing it. Poor circulation could prevent that injury from healing, leading to infection, amputation or even death.
Phyllis Cash, RN, associate director of home care for Visiting Nurse Association of Ohio, said diabetics and their caregivers should follow a diligent foot-care regimen and take a few simple precautions, including:
- Checking the feet every day.
Thoroughly inspect the feet, including bottoms, sides and in-between toes, on a daily basis. If you notice an injury, even if it’s small, take it seriously. “A pinhole can become an ulcer very quickly,” Cash said.
If you find a wound, wash it well with soap and water. Cover it with a clean bandage, and see a podiatrist or family physician right away. If necessary, VNA of Ohio can help arrange for a provider to come to the home.
- Wearing well-fitting, appropriate footwear.
Shoes that are too tight or rub can cause blisters or abrasions that can get infected. Shoes that are too loose can create a trip hazard. Consider orthopedic shoes, which are customized to fit the wearer properly.
Avoid open-toed shoes and sandals that leave the feet unprotected from kicked objects that could cause injury.
- Keeping the feet covered.
Wear clean, white socks. Compression socks, which can improve circulation, are available over-the-counter at most pharmacies.
- Keeping the feet well groomed – safely.
Diabetes can cause toenails to become thick and brittle. They should be kept trimmed, but only by a podiatrist or other healthcare professional. “They need to be cut precisely,” Cash said. “If the toe gets nicked (with toenail clippers), there is an open wound that you are trying to heal now.”
Some podiatrists make home visits for the sole purpose of trimming toenails. This is another service that VNA of Ohio can help arrange.
- Keeping diabetes under control.
The best way to prevent foot damage from diabetic complications is to try to prevent the complications themselves.
Poor circulation and neuropathy are complications of both insulin-dependent Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that causes the pancreas to stop producing insulin, and Type 2 diabetes, which can be controllable through diet, exercise and oral medication and accounts for 90 to 95 percent of diabetes cases.
The complications result from sustained high blood glucose (high blood sugar). So work to keep those levels within the target range.
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Learn more about VNA of Ohio home healthcare services, or call us today at 1-877-698-6264.