Bradford Miller has had diabetes for nine years, and he knows the importance of quick treatment for related problems such as swelling and numbness in the feet.
“Knowing some of the warning signs of the problems dealing with my feet and taking care of those things immediately I knew would prevent larger issues, I see the doctor regularly to prevent any medical problems,” says Miller.
The swelling was caused by neuropathy – a result of nerve damage that is common among people with diabetes.
“About 60 to 70 percent of all patients that develop diabetes in their lifetime will have some form of neuropathy, which is the loss of protective sensation, and therefore, increases their risk of having a foot problem,” says Crystal Holmes, DPM, a certified wound specialist and podiatrist at the University of Michigan Health System.
Typically, people become aware of many health problems when they begin to feel pain. But with diabetic neuropathy, the inability to sense pain could postpone treatment, allowing for a little problem to become a big problem.
“Something that normally would cause a person to stop, notice that there's an issue and seek help, that whole event is delayed in someone who has neuropathy and diabetes,” says Holmes.
When someone has diabetes, the nerves can be damaged by a multitude of factors, such as high blood glucose and damage to the blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients to nerves.
Fortunately, there are several tips for people suffering from diabetes and ways to keep your feet healthy:
- Check your feet daily. Look at your bare feet for any unusual cuts, swelling and blisters.
- Keep your feet clean and dry. Wash your feet in warm water everyday. Dry them carefully, especially between your toes.
- Protect your feet from heat and cold. Wear shoes at the beach or on hot pavement. Never use hot water bottles, heating pads or electric blankets directly on your feet. If your feet are cold, wear socks.
- Buy shoes that are comfortable and fit properly. Shop for shoes when your have plenty of time to look around. Wear new shoes one to two hours each day for the first few weeks to break them in properly.
- Trim toenails when needed. Trim toenails straight across and file the edges with a nail file.
An estimated 24 million Americans have diabetes. Of those, 18 million are aware that they have the disease, while six million Americans don't realize they have diabetes. Prevention is the essential step one must take in order to prevent diabetes or to live with diabetes. First and foremost, Holmes advises patients to have regularly scheduled checkups with their doctor. They should work with their doctor to get blood glucose levels under control through medication and lifestyle changes. Following a healthy diet and getting at least 30 minutes of exercise daily are other important ways to stay healthy with diabetes.
“We know now that people that have diabetes are living longer, healthier, more productive lives but that is because they're working with their physicians and taking care of themselves more,” says Holmes. Some simple changes to a daily lifestyle could quite possibly save your health from dangerous diseases such as diabetes.