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The Do’s and Don’ts of Diabetic Foot Care

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of lower extremity amputations among diabetics in the USA in 2008 was 3.6 per 1,000 diabetics which were taken in hospital discharge registries. This percentage included toe, foot below the knee and above the knee amputations.

Diabetic foot - a consequence of long-standing high blood sugar levels - is a feared complication of diabetes. Blood sugar damages the arteries causing the artery wall to harden and narrow restricting blood supply to peripheral areas of the body. Blood transports nutrients and oxygen to tissues and cells. When cells and tissues are deprived of nutrients and oxygen a condition termed as ischemia occurs. The cells gradually die. This is medically known as necrosis.

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Additionally, diabetes causes neuropathy, a condition damaging the nerves which causes loss of sensation or feeling. The narrowing of arteries and diabetic neuropathic gives rise to the development of diabetic foot.

Infections easily happen. Because of too much sugar in your blood, bacteria would love to thrive there. Then a full grown infection occurs, your skin discolors and dies, your bones get infected and the doctor will have to amputate your foot.

Diabetics have different stages of lower extremity involvement. The toes, a whole foot or a whole lower extremity can be involved.

How do you prevent this condition? A vascular surgeon gives important advice.

The Do's of Diabetic Foot Care:

1. Do wash your feet gently every day using lukewarm water and mild soap. Before your wash your feet check the temperature of the water first. The water might be too hot and your feet won't feel it and you can get burns. Pat dry your feet instead of rubbing.

2. Thoroughly inspect your toes and feet for scratches, corns, blisters, lacerations or any injury daily. Inspect every area of your foot at the top, the soles, the sides, heels and especially in between the toes. The best time is just before you go to bed or after you've washed it or after bathing.

3. Ask someone to inspect your feet if you cannot reach them.

4. Apply anti-fungal powder to prevent infection. If your skin is dry and cracked apply lotion, petroleum jelly or oil after washing or bathing but don't apply to areas where you have sores.

5. Wear diabetic socks that can support the circulation of your feet. Some diabetic socks are antibacterial and others are non-wicking.

6. Wear diabetic shoes, sandals or boots. They come in different styles and custom-made to fit the shape and size of your feet.

7. Bring extra pairs of shoes when you travel especially if you'll spend most of your day or night in a bus or plane. Packing an extra pair in your hand carry bag or back pack when you go sight- seeing or hiking in the woods is very useful. In case your shoes get muddy or painful you can have a change of fresh shoes.

8. Use good running or walking shoes if you're into jogging or hiking. Use shoes that are closed to protect your feet from sharp jagged objects that can hurt your feet.

9. Pay attention to your toenails. Cut them short and straight across to prevent an ingrown toenail. You can do this right after bathing when your nails are soft.

10. If you opt for a pedicure, be sure you choose a pedicurist whose instruments are sanitized after each use. To be safe you can bring your own pedicure tools. Be sure not to have your cuticles cut too deep, or better yet don't have it trimmed off. It's very easy for bacteria, fungi and viruses to enter even the tiniest nick in your skin.

11. Learn how to identify foot problems.

12. Exercise regularly to improve the circulation in your lower extremities.

13. See your foot doctor at least once year.

14. If you have wounds and want immediate action, seek assistance from your local wound care centers. Local wound centers have specialists who can assist you.

The Don'ts of Diabetic Foot Care

1. Don't go barefoot anywhere not even in your bedroom. The same thing when you go swimming in pools. Just remove your shoes or slippers when you go inside the water. The beach is particularly hazardous to your feet. Wear a thick hard soled slipper or sandal. It should be large enough that not a part of your feet is hanging out. Small broken tiny shell or sharp stones can slice your feet without you knowing it.

2. Don't wear tight fitting or uncomfortable shoes. For ladies avoid pointy toed shoes as they restrict blood flow to your toes. High heels can also restrict blood flow to your toes.

3. Don't wear socks that are too tight or restrictive. Choose socks that can let your feet breathe.

4. Don't ignore any foot or toe injury.

5. Don't forgo your check-up to your endocrinologist or doctor. A tightly controlled blood sugar level can prevent the worsening of your foot condition.

6. Don't smoke. Smoking further narrows your arteries and restricts blood flow to your feet.

7. Don't use strong antiseptic solutions on your feet. They can scald your skin.

8. Don't apply a heating pad or hot water bottle to your feet.

9. Don't walk on hot pavement or at hot sandy beaches. So you can have fun at the beach wear thick soled slippers or sandals. If your feet feel cold at night wear socks to bed.

10. Don't treat small injuries, calluses or corns with over the counter medicines or home remedies but make an appointment with a podiatrist to treat foot problems

11. Don't sit with your legs crossed or stand for too long periods of at time. If you're traveling, flex your feet, stretch them, stand up and take frequent walks at the aisle.

12. Don't ignore your diabetes medications.

These are important tips to help prevent further deterioration of your conditions and can help you avoid amputation.

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The best way to prevent diabetic foot from happening is still to manage and control your blood sugar level through diet, exercise, compliance to your anti-diabetic medications, blood glucose monitoring and check-ups to your endocrinologist or health care provider.

A B Stephens is a chemical engineer by profession. Her passion to help diabetics stems from the fact that members of her family and her husband's family are diabetics. They launched in 2007 - a one-stop shop for people who have diabetes - a lifestyle store complete with whatever a diabetic would need to live his/her life to the fullest! A diabetic should always take good care of his/her feet to prevent complications of diabetic foot. A diabetic should choose footwear carefully to protect his /her feet. Here are diabetic shoes and boots that can help you care for your feet. They are therapeutic but trendy, comfortable and elegant, made just for you!

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