November is National Diabetes Month. Foot care might not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about diabetes. However, poorly controlled diabetes can lead to problems with your feet.
The two most common problems are diabetic neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease.
Diabetic neuropathy means nerve damage from diabetes. It is caused from high blood sugar levels damaging your nerves. This damage will prevent you from being able to feel pain, cold, or heat.
Imagine walking with a stone in your shoe all day and not feeling it! You might then develop a blister and that blister could then become infected.
This nerve damage can also cause problems with the muscles of your feet and toes. It may lead to changes in the shape of your feet and toes.
If you have this problem it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about special therapeutic shoes. Medicare and other insurances often cover the cost of these shoes.
Peripheral vascular disease is from poorly controlled diabetes. It can cause a decrease in blood flow or circulation to your feet. This decrease in blood flow makes it hard for your body to heal and fight infection. It may even be hard for antibiotics to reach where the infection is in your body. Sadly, this problem can lead to amputations.
Remember these problems occur in people with poorly controlled blood sugars; so good blood sugar control is the best prevention for having health problems with your feet.
Here are some other tips to prevent health problems with your feet:
n Look at your feet every day to check for cuts, sores, blisters, redness, calluses or other problems. Make sure your doctor checks your feet at least once a year.
n If your skin is dry, rub lotion on your feet after you wash and dry them. Do not put lotion between your toes.
n Always wear socks or stockings that are not too tight to avoid blisters.
n Wear shoes that fit well. Shop for shoes at the end of the day when your feet are bigger. Break in shoes slowly. Wear them one to two hours each day for the first few weeks.
n Before putting your shoes on, feel the insides to make sure they have no sharp edges or objects that might injure your feet.
n Always tell your doctor right away about any problems you are having with your feet.
n Ask your doctor about the best way to trim your toe nails.
Here are local resources for foot care (besides your own doctor). Remember you may need a referral from your doctor before seeing the specialist.
Mount Hood Podiatry: Hood River, 541-386-1006; The Dalles, 541-296-1006
Joshua Boone, DPM: The Dalles, 541-506-6500
Merriam Prosthetics Orthotics: Hood River, 541-386-4134
Glynis McMullen, R.N., specializing in foot care, especially nail care and no referral necessary: 541-993-1776
Help put your best foot forward by caring for your diabetes. If you have questions about diabetes or would like more education, contact Providence Hood River Diabetes Education at 541-387-6379.
Healthy Active Hood River County is our community healthy living coalition. We promote wellness through increased physical activity, healthy eating, tobacco use prevention and policy and environmental change.
Join us at our next meeting, Nov. 12, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Providence Hood River Hospital boardroom.
Kelly Chambers, M.S., R.D., C.D.E., serves in the Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital diabetes education department.