When I was a little girl, my grandmother sometimes asked me to rub her feet. I remember being amazed at how dry and leathery those old feet were. It is funny to think that I am now older than she was when she asked for a foot rub.
Feet were not something we cared about at our house. We went barefoot most of the time. Blisters, sticker burs, nails, bug bites — even jellyfish poisons were part of life for our feet.
But since I developed Type 2 diabetes over 15 years ago, taking care of my feet has turned into a big deal. A change in my feet happened slowly, beginning with numbness in some spots and over sensitivity in others. The reason, of course, was peripheral neuropathy, one of the complications of diabetes.
The problem often starts with numbness and tingling, sometimes along with symptoms such as dryness of the skin and weakness or cramping of the muscles. Fungal infections, red spots, and sores that do not heal are also possibilities if we are not very careful to take care of our feet.
I learned that going to the podiatrist for an exam at least every year was not just a suggestion. Foot surgeons see thousands of patients every year, and according to one quote, as many as 85% of foot amputations in adults with diabetes could have been avoided.
How? By making it a habit to check our feet every day for blisters, sores, swollen areas, cuts, or infections, and by visiting a podiatrist at least every year. Those two things catch problems early.
A good friend of my sister’s had to have a below-the-knee amputation because of a small sore in his foot that refused to heal. The doctors spent months trying to save his foot, but it could not be done.
Statistics show that since the mid-1990s there have been fewer amputations from complications of diabetes, but they still happen. I think of it every time a grandchild bangs my ankle with a toy, leaving a sore that takes weeks to heal. That is something I worry about.
But it is not just about sores. Because of diabetes we should stop doing certain things. It may seem silly not to be able to cut your own toenails, but you must remember that healing is not simple now. Since our feet may have become less sensitive to touch because of diabetic neuropathy, it is best to let a professional do anything to our feet that involves scissors and clippers.
My grandmother’s feet were dry and leathery, but I have heeded the warning to use lotion after a shower on my diabetic feet (except between the toes). It means those feet are softer now than they were before I developed Type 2.
There are other rules I follow as well. One is to never, ever go barefoot outside. I read that a person with diabetic neuropathy could step on a nail and not feel it, so I wear the shoes recommended for my feet, the ones that have sturdy soles and extra room in the toe area.
The special socks made for with diabetic neuropathy are a must as well. I find them at Walmart. Those socks have no inside seams to rub your toes, and they have extra padding in the soles and heels. The tops do not bind, so blood can flow up from your feet without restriction.
When I remember my grandma’s feet and look at mine, I am grateful for all the good advice. Even though we are living longer with Type 2 diabetes than our parents and grandparents, we are more likely to keep our lower limbs. For that we can be thankful.
Take good care of your feet this winter.