Footcare is important for diabetics.
For diabetics, foot numbness presents serious health risks that can lead to infections, possible amputations and potential death. Therefore, treatment for foot numbness is highly important.
Before numbness in feet can mask the pain of blisters, cuts, sores and calluses, the risk for infections increases. To ensure that your feet stay free of infection, follow a regular self-treatment program. Wash your feet daily in warm water and dry your feet well. Also inspect your feet daily. If necessary, use a mirror to check your feet or ask someone to help you.
Dry skin is more susceptible to cracking and other types of sores. Therefore, you should keep your skin moisturized by rubbing your feet with lotion. Also, file off corns and calluses with an emery board or pumice stone. Do the filing after a bath or shower, when skin is softest. Cut your toenails once a week or as needed. Be careful to avoid cutting them too short. File the edges with an emery board. Wear slippers or shoes at all times to protect your feet from injuries and wear socks to avoid blisters. Be sure your shoes fit well and do not cause any rubbing against your foot.
Foot ulcers are serious concerns for diabetics that should prompt a trip to your doctor. Your health care provider might take X-rays of your foot to ensure that the bone is not infected and might clean out dead and infected tissue. In some cases, your doctor will take cultures of the wound to determine the type of infection you have.
Foot ulcer treatment often involves a prescribed antibiotic that is designed to fight the infection. It is important to stay off your feet if you have one of these ulcers. Doctors also recommend the use of podiatrists, who can help remove calluses and other foot sores.
At the New York University Cardiac and Vascular Institute, doctors are prescribing experimental medicines via a process called therapeutic angiogenesis to stimulate the vascular system in ways researchers hope can allow patients to grow new blood vessels in the leg.
Surgeons can treat the underlying vascular problem causing foot numbness via an angioplasty or bypass surgery. An angioplasty surgery is designed to widen a narrow or obstructed blood vessel. Balloons are inserted into the vessels and are expanded to push open the vessel. In bypass procedures, doctors reroute blood around clogged arteries to improve blood flow to the feet.
Before prescribing one of the procedures, doctors will measure the blood pressure at your ankle and compare it with blood pressure in your arm. The measurement, called the Ankle-Brachial Index, can help in the evaluation of the artery obstruction to determine whether surgery is needed. Surgery can increase the circulation of blood flow to the foot, which can, in turn, minimize the likelihood of foot ulcers and help in healing any that already exist.
In cases of neuropathic ulcers, which are caused by nerve damage rather than by constricted blood flow, doctors sometimes prescribe special shoes or casts that promote healing. When foot deformities cause frequent ulcers, doctors perform corrective surgeries to remove such issues as a clawed toe or a prominent metatarsal head.
Even with intense care, some foot problems become worse for diabetics. An estimated 5 percent of adults who have diabetes eventually have a toe or foot amputated. To avoid the threat of amputation, you must control your blood sugar by constantly monitoring it and use care to ensure good circulation in your feet. High blood sugar can damage the nerves in the feet and cause loss of feeling, which can lead to unknown foot injuries and eventual infections such as gangrene that sometimes reach the bone and require amputation. Smoking is a serious issue that can cause reduced blood circulation in small vessels. To avoid the risks of numbness and amputation, quit smoking.
Even after amputation, you must follow your diabetes treatment plan by monitoring your blood sugar, eating healthy foods and taking any prescribed medications. Mental health professions and family members can help you deal with the psychological and physical concerns you will face following an amputation.