Diabetes and foot care in the summer

Diabetes mellitus is a condition that affects about 10% of the population. High blood sugar levels can affect the nerves in the feet, causing neuropathy – loss of protective sensation, as well as a reduction in the blood supply to the feet.

A vital part in preventing problems in the feet is good control of blood sugar levels, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and checking your feet for any changes in the skin and nails.

It is important that people with diabetes have their feet checked by a podiatrist at least once a year to detect any changes in the blood supply to the feet and also to find any signs of neuropathy. This is easy, and pain free screening can prevent ulcerations from occurring and help a person have a good standard of living. A podiatrist will be able to tell you if you need to be seen more regularly, as well as educate you on how to take care of your feet.

One healthy habit is a daily inspection of your feet. By checking your feet daily, you will be able to detect any changes in colour, swelling or the general condition of your feet and therefore take the necessary actions to prevent further problems from occurring. If you are able to trim your nails yourself, make sure to trim them straight across and avoid cutting them too deep. Any sharp edges can be smoothed using a nail file. Regular application of moisturising cream will keep your feet soft and prevent cracks in the skin around the heels, which is very common during summer.

Living on an island with long summers can take its toll on our feet. Due to the high temperature and humidity levels, fungal infections are more contagious and can spread easily. Changing your shoes regularly and making sure to dry your feet well after a shower reduces the risk of fungal infections. Applying nail polish to the nails can also cause fungal nail infections. In this case, it is good to let the nails ‘breathe’ by removing the nail polish regularly and inspecting the nail for any changes. It is important to avoid walking barefoot, as surfaces can reach very high temperatures and cause burns on the soles of our feet. Flip-flops should also be avoided as they provide minimal support to our feet when walking. A good sandal with adjustable straps is ideal for walking during the summer. It is also good to apply sunscreen to the legs and feet to avoid sunburn and discomfort. 

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