You are not alone. There are many on your side that can help to lessen the load living with diabetes has placed on your life. You have the opportunity now to assemble your very own diabetes care team that will assist you with knowing what things you need to do. The following compilation of resources has principally your activity level in mind (with focus on your feet – I am a podiatrist after all) and is by no means comprehensive but will give you a start in assembling this team. The topics listed are meanst to serve as step offs to a broader conversation.
- Keep blood sugar level in target range – Your primary care physician can assist you with this, but it’s vital that you monitor your blood sugar level closely between visits. Remember, it is problems with your blood sugar level that can cause the damage to blood vessels and nerves that can be so detrimental to your overall health (and your feet in particular). Keeping that level in check can prevent a whole host of other problems.
- Use proper shoes – Because they may expose your feet to harm, cause significant pressure, or may position your foot unnaturally, it’s important to avoid wearing certain types of shoes, such as sandals (especially those with a thong between the toes as this can rub and cause sores), slippers, and shoes with high heels. Instead, wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes with soft leather uppers that can mold to the shape of your feet. (Running or walking shoes may fit the bill nicely.) Wear socks with your shoes, but avoid socks or stockings with seams in them, since this can cause irritation (and potentially an ulcer). (You can ask your podiatrist about special shoes and socks designed for diabetic patients.) Always check the insides of your shoes before wearing them and after taking them off, making sure that the lining of the shoe is smooth and that there are no foreign objects (like rocks or (shudder) spiders) inside.
- Lose weight – This one may make you groan a bit. And you may not be overweight. But the truth is that an overwhelming majority of diabetic patients are also not at a healthy weight. While improving your health in general, weight loss can also take pressure off your feet, thus preventing future problems. Weight loss plans should always be discussed with your doctor, particularly if you are diabetic.
- Exercise – Along with reducing weight, exercise can help improve circulation and condition your feet. Walking is often the best exercise for diabetics. However, you should consult with your primary care physician as well as your podiatrist before adopting an exercise regimen. (Also, be sure to ask your podiatrist about the best kind of shoes to wear while exercising. He or she is sure to have some good ideas.)
- See your podiatrist – See your podiatrist at least twice a year, and be sure to tell him or her that you have diabetes. See your podiatrist immediately if you notice any blisters, punctures, pain in your feet or legs (leg pain may be a sign of a blocked artery), change in skin or nail color, loss of sensation, or if there’s an area of your foot with increased or decreased temperature.
This is a start. These individuals can help and direct you to shoes, weight loss facilities, medications, and other professionals that will provide you with knowledge. The fact that you are reading this highlights your willingness to obtain information. That is the key. Your desire for knowledge will only be dwarfed by your capacity to apply it.