According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.6 million people in the United States were diagnosed with diabetes. By 2015, that number had increased to 23.4 million, and has continued to rise. Now, in 2022, 37.3 million people in the United States, roughly 10%, have diabetes.
Diabetes is a chronic condition, and when you have it, your body doesn’t produce enough of, or doesn’t properly use, the hormone insulin, which is crucial for converting food to energy. The sugar that should be turned into energy instead stays in your blood, which can cause a host of problems.
One of those problems is poor circulation and damage to your blood vessels. Your feet are the part of your body farthest from your heart, and when you have poor circulation, it may be difficult for even minor injuries to heal.
Nerve damage is another common problem that results from high blood sugar. If the nerves in your feet are damaged, they may become numb — which means you may not notice a minor injury.
Combined, those facts mean that people with diabetes need to be especially careful when it comes to caring for their feet. Our team at Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle are happy to answer your questions and suggest a foot care routine designed to help you enjoy healthy feet. In this post we share some tips you may find useful.
Toenails grow, so you’re going to need to trim them. When you have diabetes, it’s especially important to trim them carefully and correctly.
The first step is to wash and dry your feet. Make sure you get the spaces between your toes thoroughly dry. You need a pair of sharp clippers or nail scissors for the job.
Cut straight across, being careful to not round the corners of your nails. Cut them short enough to avoid snagging on things like your blankets at night or your socks, but not so short you run the risk of getting an ingrown toenail.
Use a file to smooth the edges. File in one direction and only use a file when your nails are completely dry.
Complications associated with toenails
It may seem outlandish to think that a jagged toenail could pose a risk to your overall health, but if you have diabetes, it certainly can. Toenails that are too long or sharp can scratch or cut you, and if you have nerve damage, you may not know it’s happened.
If your toenails are too short, you run a much greater risk of developing an ingrown toenail. The sharp edge of your toenail grows into the soft skin that surrounds your nail. This situation can be painful, and become infected. Poor circulation makes it much harder for your body to resolve and heal from an ingrown toenail.
For some people, trimming their own toenails is a problem. You may not be able to reach your toes easily, or you may simply be worried you won’t do it correctly. Our podiatrists can help by providing a foot exam and a professional nail trimming at regular intervals.
Why you need regular foot exams
Even if you’re comfortable trimming your own toenails and know that you can do so properly, it’s important to have regular foot exams when you have diabetes. The risk of problems is high, and having a highly qualified podiatrist monitor your feet can prevent issues or catch them early.
With the potential for nerve damage, your risk of minor cuts or wounds in your feet is much higher than for a person who doesn’t have diabetes. And even a small wound can become infected if it doesn’t heal well. The combination of issues means that people with diabetes face amputation much more often than people who don’t have the disease.
When you come in for regular exams, we make sure you don’t have any signs of nail fungus, ingrown toenails, or other problems. If you have a wound, we can monitor it and provide debridement, bandaging, and other services to help prevent infection. We can also give you guidance on proper footwear.
Schedule your appointment at any of the convenient locations of Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center for a diabetic foot exam today, and begin a routine of caring for your feet that will keep you healthy and active for years to come.