Diabetic Foot Care
By Kirsten Antony R.N. ~
Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder that is on the rise worldwide. Complications can arise from diabetes and affect the body from the head (retinopathy) to the toes (neuropathy) and many of the systems in between. Type 2 diabetes occurs when it becomes difficult for the body to metabolize glucose. This insulin resistance results in increased blood sugar wherein the fuel (glucose) does not enter the cell as easily as it should. It is this increase in circulating blood sugar that causes damage to blood vessels and organs. Permanent damage may already be occurring to many parts of the body years before symptoms are noticed. One of the areas that are often overlooked and can offer insight into the progression of diabetes are the feet.
As a holistic nurse, I would first like to point out that through healthy lifestyle changes to diet, nutrition, exercise and stress management, type 2 diabetes can be avoided for many people. It may be managed through positive lifestyle changes. 80% of those diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. Being within a healthy body mass index (BMI), exercising regularly and eating a diet rich with foods in their natural state (not processed) and low-glycemic index can help in diabetes management, but also help those with pre-diabetes avoid the disease. For those who have been diagnosed with diabetes or are pre-diabetic, keeping track of blood sugar levels is extremely important. Those who keep a journal of their blood sugar levels are typically more successful in managing symptoms and avoiding complications than those who check it sporadically.
I have specialized in foot care for over 21 years and have seen the toll diabetes can take on the feet. As I mentioned earlier, the feet can reveal many issues going on with the body, diabetes being one of them. If you have wounds on the feet or lower legs that are slow to heal, that could be an indication of poor circulation to the extremities. Diabetes can cause poor circulation where the extremities do not get the proper supply of blood and nutrients to heal properly. This is one reason it is imperative to check your feet daily. If you can’t reach your feet to inspect them and do not have anyone available to do so, use a mirror. Make sure you examine the whole foot and in between the toes as well. Along my travels as a foot care nurse, I have seen much skin degradation that occurs in between the toes as well as hidden underneath corns and calluses. This can lead to infection and amputation, so please take time to make foot care inspection part of your daily practice.
Lack of sensation in the feet, numbness, tingling, pain and changes in temperature can be an indication that diabetes has caused nerve damage to the feet. This is known as diabetic neuropathy also known as a form of peripheral neuropathy. The symptoms can range from mild to severe and can cause disabilities. If you are having any of these symptoms, please visit your physician. I again emphasize the importance of observing any changes to your feet and looking at them every day. Those with neuropathies are at higher risk of damage and infection to the feet as they have less sensation of pain.
Wounds and changes in sensation to the feet are two issues to be aware of for those with diabetes. Other changes to be aware of include: dry skin, changes to the toenails, swelling to the feet and ankles, foot deformities, corn and calluses, and changes in skin color and temperature. Many elders have trouble seeing their feet, reaching their feet, and do not have the proper implements or strength to care for their feet. The statistics are that one in five people with diabetes will be admitted to the hospital with a foot-related issue. To avoid foot care complications, please inspect the feet daily, and understand the importance of daily hygiene and care for the feet. Please seek care from appropriate health care specialists when needed.
In addition to modifying the diet, there are many dietary supplements that can help in the management of diabetes. Alpha-lipoic acid is a powerful antioxidant that is helpful in the metabolism of carbohydrates and in reducing symptoms of diabetic neuropathy. Fenugreek is an herb and cinnamon is a spice and both are shown to normalize blood glucose levels. Magnesium and chromium are two minerals that have been shown to help stabilize blood glucose levels. Consumption of dietary fiber helps reduce blood sugar levels by slowing gastric emptying time. If you consider adding supplements to your diet, please do your research to avoid any contraindications and check with your physician or pharmacist if you have further concerns.
Much focus in health care is on correcting and managing the physical body when it comes to disease. By understanding that the body operates holistically, is programmed for homeostasis and is a multi-faceted energetic marvel, we can regain a sense of hope by taking control of our own health. Whether you are afflicted by diabetes, or any other chronic or acute disease process, know that many diseases can be prevented or corrected back to the body’s natural inclination of balance and harmony. Stress management via utilizing holistic practices such as mediation, visualization, breathwork, and yoga can make a huge impact on living a healthy lifestyle. Become mindful of your thoughts and actions moment to moment and you can change your behavior and will impact your health for the better.
This content is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition.
Kirsten Antony is a Registered Nurse and Holistic Health Care Practitioner. She offers services in the Denver Metro Area. For more information, please visit www.kirstenantony.com or www.facebook.com/soultosoleholistichealthcare or call 303-668-8992.