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Understanding Diabetes Complications: Foot and Skin Health

Understanding Diabetes Complications: Foot and Skin Health: Main Image
Poorly controlled blood sugar slows healing and decreases immune function, increasing infection risk
If you have neuropathy that lessens your ability to feel pain in your hands or feet, you are at increased risk of foot and skin problems. Poorly controlled blood sugar slows healing and decreases immune function too, both of which increase infection risk. Infections can arise from bacteria, viruses, fungus, or yeast.

Foot and skin complications often start when a minor problem becomes major. For example, you may not notice a small blister on your foot because neuropathy has dulled your ability to feel pain. Ignored, this blister can lead to more serious infection.

Watch for:

  • Infections or changes around the nails
  • Boils and blisters
  • Styes (eyelid gland infections)
  • Itchy, flaky skin areas
  • Changes in skin texture or color
  • Calluses and ulcers
  • Wounds that are slow to heal
  • Red, inflamed, hot, or swollen areas on the skin or feet

The best way to keep feet and skin in good health is to be very observant. Check your feet daily and give your entire body a good look at least twice a week. Check hard-to-see areas, such as between your toes. Ask a spouse, partner, or home healthcare provider to help with areas you can't see, such as your back, or the bottom of your feet.

Place special focus on keeping your feet clean and dry. Be sure to wash and dry between toes carefully. Wear appropriate, well-fitting foot wear, and comfortable, moisture-wicking socks.

Lifestyle is another cornerstone of maintaining good health, and keeping foot and skin problems at bay. Maintain blood sugar control, keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels in a healthy range, quit smoking, maintain a healthy body weight, eat a well-balanced diet, and engage in regular physical activity--if you are able--and you can protect your feet and skin from diabetes complications.

Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.
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