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Caring for Diabetic Foot Problems Begins with Prevention

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If you have type 2 diabetes, one of the biggest concerns you’re likely to face is diabetic foot ulcers.

As many as 70 percent of diabetics have mild to severe forms of nervous system damage which can cause impaired sensation or pain in their feet. Of all lower limb amputations in the U.S., nearly 70 percent are the result of diabetes – with four out of five of these amputations preceded by a foot ulcer.

Effective foot care management can make a big difference. This begins with routine foot care and evaluation, as it’s easier to fix something before the condition worsens.

Part of the problem is that diabetics, because of nerve system damage, don’t necessarily feel foot pain and so tend to ignore a problem until it’s too late. Since normal sweat secretion and oil production that lubricates the skin of the feet is often impaired, abnormal pressure on the skin, bones and joints of the feet during walking can lead to a breakdown of the skin and foot sores. Bacterial infection of the skin, connective tissues, muscles and bones may then occur. Since diabetics are prone to poor circulation, antibiotics cannot get to the infection site easily.

Prevention starts with inspecting your feet daily, seeing if there are cuts, cracks, redness, bruises, or swelling. Medical guidelines recommend that diabetics routinely see a foot specialist for an examination at least once a year. Experts can evaluate and get you the proper shoes to prevent breakdowns.

Recent studies have shown that a proper foot care program can reduce amputations by as much as 85 percent. This includes the use of therapeutic footwear.

Here are some other recommendations:
  • Wash your feet daily in lukewarm water and dry them gently.
  • Carefully trim your toenails regularly (and follow-up with a foot specialist).
  • Keep the skin on your feet soft and smooth.
  • Don’t go barefoot (even around the house).
  • Wear clean, dry socks – made from such fabrics as cotton and acrylic fibers (that pull sweat away from the skin); avoid nylon socks or those with tight elastic bands.
  • Buy shoes that fit properly (and speak to a foot doctor about special shoes that fit the exact shape of your feet, cushion them and evenly distribute your weight).
  • If you smoke, stop – smoking impairs circulation and reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood.
  • Take any foot injuries or changes to the skin very seriously.
  • Maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and carefully monitor your blood sugar.
Although the treatment for diabetic foot problems has greatly improved in recent years, it all starts with prevention. And, should a foot problem occur, get prompt medical care.

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