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Avoiding Diabetic Foot Ulcers
Ask A Healer Diabetes Series
Avoiding Diabetes-Related Amputation
by N J Howell
Common diabetes-related complications
What is Diabetic Ketoacidosis?
If you have diabetes, you need to take particular care of your feet. Because diabetics have decreased blood flow, wounds in the extremities bear special consideration. Diabetes-related amputation in 2010, numbered around 73,000 in adults aged 20 years or older who had been diagnosed with diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. I couldn't find statistics later than 2010 but this is appalling.
Early prevention and proper foot care may save your limbs. See your doctor at the first sign of any infection on the foot or any wound that does not begin to heal quickly.
Foot Care for the Diabetic
Doctors advise checking your feet every single day. Why? Because many diabetics also have diabetic neuropathy and have reduced feeling in the legs and feet. A small wound might not be noticed. It's a good idea to keep triple antibiotic cream handy and apply at first sign of a wound. See your doctor IMMEDIATELY if you notice a wound on the foot. Let them determine whether it looks "right" and as if it is healing properly. Get your doctor actively involved early on.
In general, most of us just don't pay enough attention to our feet anyway. I have to pay attention because I am a foot reflexologist. When I was learning reflexology, I began to understand that the state of the feet is significant to overall health, whether or not a person has diabetes. In addition to increasing circulation to the limbs, foot reflexology also helps stimulate various parts of the body toward health, via reflexes on the feet that correspond to different organs in the body.
Foot reflexology may be contraindicated in the diabetic who also has neuropathy so get approval from your doctor for adding trying it. Also, if your doctor does approve, be sure to tell your foot reflexologist that you have are being treated for diabetes so they can adjust their sessions accordingly.
One issue for older folks with diabetes is that they need their toenails cut and may not be able to bend over to do it themselves. If you go to a salon to get pedicures, be sure you tell the person giving the pedicure that you have diabetes and that extra care should be taken of your feet. You can also ask the salon person to alert you to any wound, no matter how small. And, of course, go only to reputable, well-established salons. If you don't trust the salons in your area, that is if they seem blaise about your concerns, consider getting feet cared for by a podiatrist.
Keep your feet from getting too dry. Applying moisturizer daily helps. However, avoid excessive moisture between the toes by getting in the habit of drying between every toe after bath or shower. If assisted in bath or shower, make sure your caregiver understands the importance of completely drying your feet every time. Also, make sure your shoes fit properly, without rubbing or too tight a fit.
Ask your doctor to demonstrate for you how to test circulation in the foot, or the ankle brachial index. Stanford Medicine's website has more information on this topic, including a video on how to detect PAD. Stanford says if you are over 60 and are a diabetic or a smoker, you should have the ankle brachial index test done. The video explains the test very simply.
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Health Disclaimer: Any action taken based on the contents found in this article is at the sole discretion of the reader. Please consult with your doctor or podiatrist about foot ulcers and foot care for diabetics. Wounds, ulcers and neuropathy are all serious health concerns for the diabetic so please see your doctor at first sign of any wound that isn't healing, any ulceration on the body and any feeling of numbness or tingling in the extremities.