How does diabetes affect your feet and legs?
For those managing diabetes, you may encounter problems with your feet and legs, two common complications of the disease. Diabetes puts you at a much higher risk for calluses, corns, bunions, blisters, and ulcers. High blood sugar means these minor injuries and changes to your feet may become gateways to potentially life-threatening or disabling infections.
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to help maintain good foot health. This includes wearing specialized footwear, scheduling regular foot exams, and performing low-impact exercises.
While researchers aren’t exactly sure how high blood sugar levels damage nerves, they think that blood sugar may have a negative effect on the nervous system’s cells and enzymes. These damaged nerves may lead to what is called ‘diabetic neuropathy’, a condition in which you lose feeling in your feet or hands.
This is especially dangerous because if you can’t feel your feet or hands, you won’t be able to notice cuts, sores, or pain, which can lead to infection. Untreated infections can lead to gangrene, which in turn can require amputation.
Below are 10 tips you can use to protect your feet and legs if you have diabetes (and if you don’t!):
• Inspect your feet daily for cracks, wounds, and sores
• Don’t use your feet to test hot water (use your elbow instead!)
• Support your feet with diabetes-friendly footwear and socks
• Don’t go barefoot, whether you’re inside or outside
• Keep your feet dry to reduce the risk of infection (when using moisturizer, avoid putting it between your toes)
• See a podiatrist (a healthcare professional who treats the feet and their ailments) regularly to treat foot problems
• Stabilize and relieve feet with orthotic shoes
• Go easy on your feet with low-impact exercises
• Quit smoking to improve circulation in your feet
• Control your blood sugar to help avoid diabetic neuropathy