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Importance of foot care for diabetics

Dr. Michael Nirenberg stresses the importance of checking feet daily. If seeing the bottom of the feet is a problem, a mirror can be helpful.

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Our feet are our foundation, and it's important to take good care of them. But good foot care is even more crucial for a diabetic. Diabetes isn't just a blood sugar problem; the disease affects the entire body, and that includes nerves and circulation to the feet. However, foot problems often go unnoticed because diabetics tend to lose feeling in the feet over time.

Dr. Michael Nirenberg, a podiatrist at Friendly Foot Care in Crown Point, sees this problem rather frequently and strongly recommends that diabetics see a podiatrist once a year. A podiatrist will examine the foot and check the strength of the pulse in the foot. A pulse that is too strong or not strong enough can be an early indicator of circulation problems.

A broken bone or sore in the foot can be very painful, but a diabetic might feel little to no pain at all. Diabetic neuropathy can lessen the ability to feel pain even more. "I've had diabetic patients over the years for various foot problems and I'll find a sore or infection on the foot and they won't know about it," Dr. Nirenberg says. "I'll x-ray the foot and find needles and toothpicks imbedded that they never felt."

Dr. Nirenberg stresses the importance of checking feet daily. If seeing the bottom of the feet is a problem, a mirror can be helpful. Dr. Nirenberg also recommends a scale called the Insight Foot Care Scale that uses angled mirrors to give a full, magnified view of the bottom of the foot.

Diabetics, particularly those who still have good feeling in the hands, should get into the habit of checking their feet daily for any unusual bumps or sores. This should be done for 30 seconds a day and every part of the foot, including areas between the toes, should be examined. Daily examination can help put a stop to possible infections or production of gangrene by giving the patient a chance to alert his or her podiatrist of anything unusual early on.

Since dry skin is at a greater risk for breaking open, a good moisturizer is another way to keep feet healthy.

Unfortunately, one in five diabetics will have an amputation of the foot. The most common result of amputation is an instability that causes a patient to walk and exercise much less afterward. As a strong believer that walking is the best way to get blood moving, Dr. Nirenberg has seen the overall health of diabetics often decreases greatly after this procedure and puts them at greater risk for heart attack.

The best way to keep those feet healthy is to examine them daily and to see your podiatrist at the first sign of a problem. Don't wait. Infections can be halted before they turn into a bigger problem.