I seem to have been on a roll talking about numbness in feet. I have saved the most common problem until today.
Peripheral neuropathy is a disease that is most often seen in conjunction with diabetes. It can also be caused by poor nutrition or injury. Generally with peripheral neuropathy, the symptoms will start in the toes and move up the foot.
Common Symptoms of Peripheral Neuropathy
The common symptoms are
· Burning or pain
· Tingling or a feeling of “pins and needles”
· Feeling like you are wearing a sock.
What should I do if I think I have a problem?
If you are concerned, it is time to see your friendly local podiatrist. If your diabetes is under control, you should be seeing your friendly local podiatrist at least once or twice a year to have your feet and legs checked. If you have not gone in then you should go in and have a Comprehensive Diabetic Foot Exam (CDFE) which is a non-invasive examination of the feet and legs. The exam evaluates the condition of the skin and checks the circulation of the leg and foot. It also looks for neurological changes in the sensations of the foot.
Will having peripheral neuropathy make a difference?
Yes, it will. You need to be very careful if you have peripheral neuropathy. Not being able to feel your foot or feet means that you could develop sores and not feel them. For example, you could slightly cut your toe when trimming your toe nails. That cut could get infected and quickly lead to a major problem because you can’t feel the pain from the cut or infection. When you have diabetes, any sores that you have will not heal as quickly as they might in a person without diabetes. So if you have a sore, it will not heal as quickly which also leaves you open to infection.
Daily foot checks
Managing your diabetes will be a major element in preventing peripheral neuropathy. You also need to do daily foot checks. A daily foot check takes under a minute and should become part of your morning routine. (Actually, I would love it if you did it twice a day but I will settle for once a day.) If you sit on the side of your bed with a hand mirror and just check your feet. Look to make sure that there are not any spots or sores. Look to make sure there aren’t any corns or calluses. (If you have corns or calluses, do not use over the counter acid medications to try and get rid of them. Between the diabetes and peripheral neuropathy, you run the risk of getting an infection from not feeling the medication and having it burn the skin.) Check to see that your skin is not too dry – that the skin is not cracking. Check your toe nails to see if they are healthy or if they are thick or yellow. If you see any changes, it is time to head in to your friendly local podiatrist to have your feet checked.
Yes, if you have peripheral neuropathy there are four other habits that you need start. I know I am pushing it asking for all this but it is for you not me. 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. 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)
I know this is a lot to start at once but start gradually. The next habit is not as hard as the last two. 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. Here is my last request. 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.
(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 from experience.)
What is the worst thing that can happen from the disease?
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.