Having diabetes means keeping track of what you eat, how much you exercise, your blood sugar levels and even the condition of your feet.
When it comes to diabetes-related foot health, the goal is to prevent and treat foot ulcers that can lead to gangrene and amputation, one surgeon explained.
“Around 80 percent of diabetes-related lower extremity amputations start out as a foot ulcer,” vascular surgeon Dr. Anil Hingorani said in a Society for Vascular Surgery news release.
High blood sugar damages your blood vessels, causing poor circulation in your legs and feet. When feet don’t get enough oxygen-rich blood, any sores or cuts that develop may not heal as they should and more serious complications can result.
People with diabetes should see a health care provider who is trained in foot care at least once a year, but more often if they’re at greater risk for foot problems, according to the society.
However, there also are steps to take on your own. The group suggests:
- Learn how to look after your feet, including how to check for sores or cuts, and the best ways to keep feet clean and dry.
- Wear appropriate shoes. The best ones have broad and square toes, three or four lacing eyes on each side and a padded tongue. They’re also made of lightweight material and have enough space inside for a cushioned sole or orthotic inlay.
- Wear special shoes if you’re at high risk. During foot checkups, ask your doctor if you need such shoes.
If you still develop a foot ulcer, don’t walk on it, the surgeons’ group advises. Your doctor may prescribe a total contact cast or a fixed-ankle walking boot.
Foot ulcers that don’t heal might indicate that your legs and feet are not getting enough blood. That should prompt a visit to a vascular surgeon, according to Hingorani.