Do Diabetic Foot Exams to Keep Feet Safe
Dr. Jyotsna Thapar examines many diabetic feet in the course of a year, but those annual exams by a podiatrist may not be enough to keep a close eye on the health of your feet. A diabetic foot self-exam is a habit people who have complications of the disease should establish. You might ask, “Really? Every day?” For many patients, the answer is yes. Let us explain why.
Diabetes and Feet
This disease has particular implications for your feet. For one, uncontrolled sugar levels can lead to plaque buildup in your blood vessels, causing them to narrow and harden. This leads to poor circulation, and you understand how important good blood flow is for getting nutrients and oxygen to your cells for repair and growth. Poor circulation means your feet cannot fight infection very well and take longer to heal from any injury or sore.
A related problem is neuropathy. When blood flow is reduced, nerve cells begin to deteriorate and can’t do their job properly. The damaged nerves can cause faulty sensations—like pin pricks or shooting pains that have no physical reason—or a lack of sensation and numbness. The latter can be even more dangerous, because you can’t feel when you are injured and may keep walking on a sore or fracture and make it worse.
Damaged nerves mean the sweat glands don’t work properly to moisturize your feet. You can end up with dry skin that peels and cracks, or thick calluses that break down. These can open your body to infection, which your poor circulation makes hard to fight off. Infected foot ulcers are the scourge of diabetic feet, because they can cause tissue death (gangrene) which is the leading cause of amputations for people with diabetes.
Prevent Complications with a Diabetic Foot Self-Exam
If you have never had issues with your feet, you may be able head off many foot problems by checking them just once a week, but if your feet have lost sensation or you’ve had problems before, be vigilant about checking your feet every day. Here’s what you should do:
- Pick a time. Some do it after washing their feet before bed, some after their morning shower or bath, but be consistent so you get into the habit.
- Sit down and lift one foot on your other knee. If you can’t bend well because of limited flexibility or extra weight, get someone to help you with the exam.
- Dry your feet carefully (between toes, too). Then tilt your ankle until you can see the bottom. If you can’t, use a hand mirror to check the reflection. Look for rashes, lumps or bumps, cuts, blisters, corns or calluses, and rough, dry or cracked skin.
- Now feel all over your foot surface for any irregular surfaces or warmth and redness. Pull the toes gently apart and check for sores or athlete’s foot. Also check the nails for discoloration or signs of ingrowing, as well as thickness or flaking that could mean a fungal infection.
- Repeat with the other foot.
- Then let both hang down and carefully check for abnormalities on the tops of your feet. If the skin is thick or shiny, or there is no hair where there used to be, your blood flow may be compromised.
- Keep a diary. Write down the date and your observations to keep track of what you find. You may even want to take a picture of any abnormality to compare later.
That’s it! It’s not hard to do, but the benefits are great.
Diabetic Foot Care Specialist in New Jersey
If you find something of concern, contact Dr. Jyotsna Thapar at Ankle and Foot Specialist of New Jersey right away to set up an exam. Call our office—conveniently located on Oak Tree Ave between Edison and South Plainfield, NJ—by dialing 908-222-8980, or contact us online to schedule. Dealing with foot problems early is crucial to your continued well-being and mobility, and that makes the difference for being able to enjoy life.