When people with diabetes watch their feet carefully, they can prevent some of the most severe risks of diabetes, including lower-limb amputations, says Dr. Robert Debiec, a podiatric physician with Ankle & Foot Care Centers.
People ages 20 and older who are living with diabetes account for about 60 percent of non-traumatic lower-limb amputations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report.
“The CDC says diabetes-related foot and lower-leg amputations have decreased by 65 percent since 1996,” Dr. Debiec points out. “Still, many more amputations can be prevented by closer attention to the health of one’s feet.”
People with diabetes may be less aware of cuts or wounds on their feet due to the nerve damage related to their disease, Dr. Debiec says.
Dr. Debiec and the American Podiatric Medical Association offer this advice to help people with diabetes protect their foot health:
- Inspect your feet daily. Check the entire foot and all 10 toes for cuts, bruises, sores, or changes to the toenails, such as thickening or discoloration. Treat wounds immediately and see your podiatrist if a problem persists or infection is apparent.
- Exercise by walking. This can help you maintain a healthy weight and improve circulation. Be sure to wear athletic shoes appropriate for the type of exercise you’re doing.
- Wear shoes that fit. When you buy new shoes, have them properly measured and fitted. Foot size and shape can change over time, and ill-fitting shoes are a leading cause of foot pain and lesions. Certain types of shoes, socks, and custom orthotics are available for people with diabetes, and they may be covered under Medicare (learn more here).
- Keep your feet covered. Never go barefoot, even at home. The risk of cuts and infection is too great.
- Rely on a professional. See a licensed podiatrist to remove calluses, corns, or warts — don’t tackle them yourself, and don’t ask an unlicensed nonprofessional to do it. Over-the-counter products can burn your skin and injure your foot. Podiatrists are specially trained to address all aspects of foot health for people with diabetes.
- Get checkups twice a year. An exam by your podiatrist is the best way to ensure your feet stay healthy.
“For people with diabetes, taking charge of your own foot health can help you avoid foot-related complications like amputation,” Dr. Debiec says. “Working with your podiatrist will help you safeguard your foot health.”
For a free booklet on diabetic neuropathy, visit this page.
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