In his National Day Rally Speech this year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong – who has a family history of diabetes – spoke of how the average Singaporean may expect to live to an average of 82 years old. Yet, many of these people will spend approximately eight years of their lives in poor health, and diabetes, is often a major culprit.
Foot problems linked to diabetes can be painful and a very real problem, but they are not inevitable – if you learn to pick your shoes with care, just like getting good medicine for your feet.
In today’s world, a bad shoe day could mean a mismatched shoe with an outfit, a blistered toe from an ill-fitting heel, or a sore arch. All these are things that can dissipate rather quickly, and sometimes, without even us noticing.
But for people with diabetes, the wrong footwear can lead to long-term harmful effects. Diabetes can cause neuropathy (nerve damage), which lessens the foot’s sensitivity to pain. When blood sugar is poorly controlled, the impact on blood circulation and nerves are first on your feet – simply because they are the furthest away from the body’s centre. As a result, people suffering from diabetes may continue walking normally unknowingly, despite that pebble in the shoe, a swell on the toe or a blister. This is why checking your feet for abnormalities daily and wearing good quality shoes are especially vital for diabetics. When the circulation is diminished wounds are often more difficult to heal and in more severe cases they can progress to gangrene and even amputation. Consequently, prevention of wounds and early wound care is vital.
Apart from regular exercise, controlling blood sugar levels, yearly foot assessments with a podiatrist or doctor, here are some quick tips for good diabetic foot care:
1. Wash feet daily with mild soap and water. Avoid soaking feet past 5 minutes.
2. Pay particular attention to the area between toes: they should always be dry after washing, and do not apply moisturiser or talc here.
3. Moisturise feet daily, avoiding area between toes (see point 2).
4. Cut toenails straight and file off all sharp corners. Do not over trim nails; as a general rule of thumb, there should be a small white line still visible.
5. Do not use corn plasters as they can lead to ulcers.
6. Always have a podiatrist treat your corns and calluses with sterile equipment.
7. Check your feet daily: between the toes, around heels and on the soles. Things to look out for include cuts, swells, redness, blisters, pus or fluid discharge.
8. If you see a wound, wash with saline. Dry carefully with a clean cloth and apply antiseptic. Cover with a non-adherent dressing (no plasters or gauzes). If the wound looks infected, please see your doctor.
9. Wear shoes with fastening features – lace, buckle, or velcro straps. Avoid shoes with hard seams within, and if the doctor has confirmed neuropathy damage on feet, avoid open shoes and sandals.
10. Before wearing your shoes, check for stones or foreign objects in your footwear that may hurt your feet.
All these does not mean your podiatrist-recommended shoes cannot still look good. Here are a few feet-loving options that are kind to your feet to consider for diabetics: