When you develop diabetes, even prediabetes, it’s time to start paying serious attention to your feet, says Professor David Armstrong, DPM, MD, PhD, who directs the Southern Arizona Limb Salvage Alliance at University of Arizona College of Medicine. Diabetes-related foot complications range from Athlete’s foot, to nail infections, bunions, and blisters, as well as cuts and sores that don’t heal, (leading to gangrene and infections) even loss of feeling due to nerve damage (meaning you could step on tacks, nails, or glass unawares). While lesser-known, these diabetes-related troubles are no less painful, incapacitating, even deadly. But with proper care and awareness, you can protect your feet from attack. First, just how common are foot-related complications?
* Up to 70 percent of people with diabetes develop nerve damage resulting in loss of sensation and feeling in their feet (peripheral neuropathy).
* Up to 25 percent of people with diabetes develop a foot ulcer.
* More than half of all foot ulcers will get infected, requiring hospitalization; 20 percent of infections result in amputation.
* Diabetes contributes to 80% of the 120,000 non-traumatic amputations performed yearly in the U.S.
Now, the positives: Folding these three simple steps into your routine can keep your feet healthy.
Step 1: Knock Your Socks Off
Make it a point, each time you go to a routine doctor’s visit, to take off your shoes and socks, says Armstrong. This signals to your doctor that you’d like him or her to take a good look at your feet to check for any areas of concern.
Step 2: Examine Your Feet Daily
Just like you bathe and brush your teeth, incorporate a quick foot-check into your day. Use a mirror to see all areas of your foot, including the bottom and heel (if this is difficult, ask a loved one to take a look). If you see abnormalities, including redness that’s new or persists, swelling, an ingrown toenail, red streaking up the leg, or a sore that’s new or won’t heal, call and make an appointment with your podiatrist (or, at the least, discuss your findings by phone.) Also look for blisters, bleeding, or lesions between toes, which could signal problems.
Step 3: See Your Podiatrist Yearly
Research has found that when people with diabetes see a foot doctor once yearly, for six years, their risk of amputation drops by about 20 percent, says Armstrong, who urges, ” just get on the phone, and make the appointment—lowering risk couldn’t be easier.”