People who suffer from diabetes are vulnerable to a trifecta of trouble that can set the stage for amputations. Increasing numbness in the feet due to nerve damage, particularly diabetic neuropathy, can lead to foot ulcers as people may fail to notice any injuries inflicted. When the wounds are left unattended and fail to heal, it can then take a turn for the worse and lead to severe infections that may require diabetic amputations.
Fortunately, the number of lower limb amputations have decreased to 50% in the past 20 years, though they remain an ever-present problem as approximately 89,000 diabetic patients in the United States still undergo limb loss as of 2019.
What is Diabetic Neuropathy?
This describes the nerve damage that occurs as a result of high sugar levels, primarily affecting the feet, legs, and arms. This means that sensation is significantly reduced, leading to unnoticed injuries that can turn into ulcers or infections. Also, diabetes prevents injuries from healing entirely due to the reduced blood flow of diabetic patients. If left unattended, it can cause further complications with the tissue and cause the injured area to deteriorate, which may result in the need for amputation.
However, if the diabetic neuropathy is caught early, the symptoms can be managed, and you can prevent worst-case scenarios like an amputation. To that end, prevention is always better than cure, and the tips below should help you take proper care of your lower limbs to avoid any devastating mishaps in the future.
Tip #1: Inspect your feet daily
Take the time to regularly and carefully check your feet for blisters, cuts, cracks, sores, redness, tenderness, or swelling. If you find any calluses, corns, bunions, or warts forming, avoid removing them by yourself or adding any chemical removers. Instead, be sure to visit your doctor or a foot specialist as they will know how to properly remove any of these lesions without causing any lasting damages that can trigger your diabetic neuropathy. Also, if you are unable to reach your feet, opt to use a hand mirror to check the soles of your feet properly. Furthermore, if you need to cut your nails, be sure to be cautious and cut it straight across. However, it is better to ask a caregiver to do so, especially when you already have numbness in your feet.
Tip #2: Avoid smoking at all costs
Nicotine and the harsh chemicals included in tobacco impairs blood circulation and reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood. This can worsen the state of your wounds and promote poor healing.
Tip #3: Don’t go barefoot
This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people get injured just by walking around the house barefoot. Make sure to protect the bottom of your feet using soft slippers or at least some clean, dry socks that can help cushion your feet.
Tip #4: Schedule regular foot checkups
Even if you’ve managed to avoid any apparent injuries at home successfully, you need to stay vigilant and ensure that you schedule for regular foot checkups with your doctor or podiatrist. After all, these professionals have trained eyes to see for early signs of nerve damage, poor circulation, and other foot problems beyond your control at home.
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