Last week we talked about peripheral neuropathy. People with diabetes are susceptible to developing peripheral neuropathy if their diabetes is not under control. Peripheral neuropathy can take several forms. Some patients will have nerve pain that feels like “pins and needles.” Some will not have any feeling at all. Some may feel like they are wearing socks when they aren’t. While there are some medicines that can help diabetic nerve pain, there is no cure. Once a nerve is damaged it is damaged.
Peripheral neuropathy can be dangerous. If you cannot feel the bottom of your foot, you can have an injury and not know it. Or if you cannot feel cold or hot, you could have frostbite and not know that the skin on your feet is being affected by the cold. Those with peripheral neuropathy need to take special precautions and care of their feet.
There are 5 habits that will help those with peripheral neuropathy take care of their feet. While these changes may be hard to get used to, they are important for your welfare.
1. I want you to stop walking around in your bare feet. I mean never walk around in your bare feet. If you cannot feel part of your foot, then you can do damage without feeling it.
2. The next thing is that I want you exercise daily. Just take a walk or ride an exercise bike. It will help the blood flow, foot strength and flexibility. (Check with the doctor before starting any exercise program)
3. I want you to make sure that you check the inside of your shoes EVERY TIME you go to put them on. Make sure that there is not anything that has fallen into your shoes. If your foot is numb, you could be walking on something and not feel it.
4. Wash your feet with warm water, a mild soap and use a moisturizer (but not between toes). Keeping your feet clean, dry, and moisturized will help to keep the skin healthy.
5. It wouldn’t be a post about diabetes if I didn’t remind you to do at least one daily foot check. Just take a minute to look your feet over (top and bottom) to make sure there are not any cuts, sores, or marks that you have not seen before.
And then there is something that I want you to stop if it applies –
(Smoking restricts blood flow and delays healing. Really, with diabetes you can have those problems already. Why compound them?) (And yes, I do know how hard it is to quit smoking – I had to do it.)
What is the worst thing that can happen if you have peripheral neuropathy? You can need to have your foot or leg amputated. This is serious. In 2010, about 73,000 non-traumatic lower-limb amputations were performed in adults aged 20 years or older with diagnosed diabetes. *
I know it is really hard to start new habits but these are important to maintain your quality of life.
Have a great week. Stay warm and keep those feet in good shape.