Diabetes and Amputation: 5 Prevention Tips
There’s no way to sugar coat it: diabetes is a serious illness with potentially very serious consequences for your feet. The high glucose levels that cause diabetes can damage the nerves and reduce the blood flow in your feet, putting you at risk for undetected injuries and making your feet slower to heal. At its very worst diabetes can lead to amputation of anything from a toe to a leg. However, there is some good news: with better education and better care, the number of amputations caused by complications from Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes has dropped recently by a full 50 percent. If you want to be in the lucky 50 percent to avoid a diabeties-related amputation there are things you and your doctor can do to keep you—and your feet—in good health in spite of diabetes.
- Visit your podiatrist regularly: There’s a reason it’s at the top of the list—regular in-office exams, sometimes as often as once a month, are the best possible way to stay out in front of the problems that could lead to amputation. More than 80 percent of amputations begin with simple and preventable ulceration. Early detection and treatment count for a lot.
- Check your feet every day: Every day really does mean every day–a foot check should be as much a part of your daily routine as brushing your teeth. Any change, even a crack or a blister, can be the beginning of trouble, and because your ability to feel pain (doctors call it “protective sensation”) has been greatly reduced you might go several crucial days without noticing that something is amiss. If you can’t see the bottoms or backs of your feet use a mirror on the floor, or ask someone else to check with you; if you see any sudden change, or if you experience an unexpected pain give your doctor a call right away.
- Keep your feet clean: Be sure to wash your feet daily in lukewarm water, dry them thoroughly, including between the toes, and then rub your feet (not in between the toes) with the cream or lotion recommended by your doctor. With neuropathy the skin stops producing its own natural oils, which can lead to drying, cracking, and eventually ulcerations and infections.
- Don’t try to take off corns, calluses, and warts yourself: Put away the scissors and chemical removers—if you need something on your foot removed ask your doctor to do it. And if your toenails have gotten thick or too hard to reach ask your doctor to trim them too. One careless little nick can lead to trouble.
- Wear shoes or sturdy slippers: Don’t walk around barefoot even in the house—and for that matter don’t wear sandals or just socks either. Without the protection of shoes or a good pair of slippers, you are at risk of stepping on something or banging up against something and suffering a wound or even a broken toe without knowing it. Choose your shoes carefully: nothing too tight or too loose, nothing with elevated heels, and no plastic or vinyl shoes (they don’t breathe). Inside your shoes wear socks that will wick sweat away from your feet and don’t have tight elastic bands or potentially irritating seams. Once you start looking, you’ll find that plenty of manufacturers make a variety of shoes and socks designed specifically for diabetics—that’s your best and safest bet.
For more information about foot health or to make an appointment with one of Triad Foot & Ankle Center’s highly skilled podiatrists, please call 336.375.6990 or click here to request an appointment at one of our four office locations.
Disclaimer: The information and other content provided in our blogs, videos, or in any other content or linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For a full disclaimer, please click here.