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After diagnosis, diabetics are faced with a variety of lifestyle modifications to avoid further health risks. The most common modifications include dietary changes, daily blood glucose monitoring, medication administration and foot care.
Uncontrolled diabetes can affect blood circulation and can even damage the nerves, which can lead to a decrease or loss of sensation in the lower extremities, especially the feet. This combination of nerve damage and decreased perfusion makes diabetics susceptible to developing gangrenous sores and ulcers because of the lack of awareness of the initial injury and poor wound healing. Once a diabetic has developed gangrene in a lower extremity, amputation may be performed to avoid spread of the infection. Amputation of the feet can be avoided if diabetics engage in daily care and monitoring of their feet.
Foot Care Routine
One of the best ways to care for feet is to create a routine. Diabetics should wash their feet in warm (not hot) water daily. Warm water and gentle cleansing encourages blood flow in the feet and toes, but feet should not be soaked. After washing the feet, they should be dried thoroughly, especially between the toes. While drying, each toe and all aspects of the feet should be inspected for signs of injury. If any signs of injury or infection are present, the diabetic should inform their health care provider for further instruction.
Lotion should be applied, but not between the toes, and nails should be cut straight across to avoid ingrown nails and infections. After foot care is finished, properly fitting socks and shoes should be worn to protect the feet and keep them warm.
In addition to daily care, diabetics should always attend appointments with their regular health care provider to manage diabetes symptoms. Many diabetics also consult with a podiatrist to develop a specialized plan to care for the feet. In addition to doctor visits, diabetics should avoid smoking, which leads to impaired oxygenation and other health complications, including cancer. Diabetics should also follow a healthy diet and exercise program to minimize further complications and to enhance quality of life.
While diabetes can create health challenges, dire complications like amputation can be avoided with care, planning, and the team effort of health care providers and patient.