Diabetic Foot Inspections: What to Look For
Diabetes causes a host of problems in the body including reduced blood flow, impaired immune function, and neuropathy (nerve damage). These problems lead to increased risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, and blindness.
But that’s not all – diabetes can also lead to serious complications in the lower limbs!
Charcot foot and diabetic foot ulcers are two medical issues you truly do not want to develop. And in order to lower your risk of these serious problems, you need to follow a diabetic foot care plan.
The core principles of diabetic foot care are basically to protect your feet and have issues addressed at the earliest possible opportunity. For an otherwise healthy individual, the trigger for addressing a medical condition often comes from the nervous system; usually pain or even the feeling “something just isn’t right.”
In the case of diabetes, nerve damage from excess glucose (sugar) can take away your ability to feel physical sensations. As a result, you might not be able to feel something like a toenail that has become ingrown or – as odd as this may seem to consider – a bone that fractures. Put simply, you cannot rely on pain anymore to clue you in to the fact something is wrong.
That means you need a different way to catch problems at their earliest, most treatable stages, and this is where a daily foot inspection comes into play.
The Importance of Daily Foot Inspections
The best starting point for how to perform a daily foot inspection is with the fact we call it “daily” for a reason – it needs to be done every day!
Our patients have the best success with this when they make the inspection part of their daily routine. A great idea that works for many people is to perform a check at the end of the day, before going to bed. Doing so gives you the opportunity to see if anything has happened during the day that you should be concerned about.
In addition to knowing “when” you are going to check your feet, knowing “where” is also quite important. Given the fact diabetes also impairs your vision – seriously, this disease is bad news for the whole body! – you should inspect your feet in a well-lit area, preferably somewhere you can sit comfortably.
Now, since you may have vision problems related to your diabetes (or otherwise), you need to use your hands. This is beneficial in helping you find textural differences that you might not be able to catch by solely relying on your eyes.
Even if your vision isn’t impaired, there’s a chance you will have difficulty seeing the bottoms of your feet. To rectify this situation, either use a mirror on the end of a long handle or recruit a loved one to assist you.
When checking your feet, keep in mind you need to check all surfaces – and this includes the areas between your toes.
What to Look for When Checking Your Feet
So now that you have the basics of how to perform a daily foot inspection, what are you looking for? Well, a general rule of thumb is “anything out of the ordinary should be checked out at our office,” but more specifically, you are looking for:
- Cuts, scratches, and scrapes. If you discover issues like these, wash the affected area carefully with running water – and just running water!! – and then apply an antibiotic cream (contact our office for a professional recommendation). If you find redness, oozing, or foul-smelling discharge, these are signs of infection and you should seek immediate medical care!
- Skin issues. Dryness can cause callusing and cracks or fissures in your skin. Do not try to remove a callus on your own! Instead, come see us at the earliest possible opportunity. As noted in the previous point, any redness is a potential sign of infection. Blue and black discoloration on the skin is especially concerning – this is an indication of a circulation issue and you need emergency care.
- Blisters, corns, warts, and other bumps or growths. Any abnormality found on the feet has the potential to ultimately cause a dangerous infection. A callus that cracks or blister that bursts can open the door to a potential infection. If you find any of these, come in and see us as soon as possible!
- Ingrown or discolored toenails. When checking your feet, make sure to inspect your toenails as well. An ingrown toenail increases infection risks when it digs into the skin. Discolored toenails typically indicate a fungal infection that requires professional treatment.
Don’t Delay Getting Professional Treatment
Performing a daily foot inspection is absolutely essential, but there is more to diabetic foot care!
We cannot stress enough the importance of getting professional advice and treatment whenever you notice any unusual symptoms in your lower limbs. The sooner you address a problem, the better your chances will be to steer clear form developing serious complications.
All you have to do is call our office at (480) 917-2300, or simply fill out our online contact form to have a member of our staff reach out to you.