Diabetes can trigger several different foot problems that originated from nerve damage or poor circulation from peripheral vascular compromise. Depending on the nerves that are affected, diabetic neuropathy can create pain or numbness in the feet and legs. It can also affect the digestive system, blood vessels, heart and urinary tract. Diabetic neuropathy can progress to become quite painful and disabling, affecting as many as 50% of people who have diabetes.
Nerve damage can result in numbness, so people are unaware of damage to the skin from a traumatic injury, heat or cold. Nerve damage can also change the shape of the foot and toes. This can require special shoes that accommodate the foot shape without causing skin damage. Poor circulation affects the skin in a number of ways. This can include drying out more quickly, leading to peeling and cracking, the development of calluses or breakdown that results in foot ulcers.
There are several steps people with diabetes can take to keep their feet healthy and free from damage. Unfortunately, with poor circulation, a foot ulcer or chronic wound can lead to gangrene and amputation if not addressed quickly. It might be difficult to maintain a foot care routine each day while traveling, but taking these simple steps can reduce the potential risk a person will develop an ulcer or become injured while away from home.
Foot Care on Vacation
Foot care is an essential part of maintaining a person’s health with diabetes. There are several steps people can take that help reduce the risk of injury and infection, which all begins with checking your feet twice a day. In the morning upon waking and before going to bed in the evening, check for redness, sores, blisters or other changes to the skin or nails. People who are unable to see the bottom of their feet should ask someone for help or use a mirror, since the most common place for a foot ulcer to start is on the balls of the foot.
While the feet tend to become dry, it’s important not to soak them in water since this dries the skin further. A person should use warm but not hot water to wash their feet each day and be sure to dry them completely before applying moisturizer. Lotion can be applied to the top and bottom of the foot, but not between the toes since this can increase the risk for infection.
Before going on vacation or traveling, be sure to have your toenails trimmed straight across and see a podiatrist for any corns or calluses that require treatment. It’s important people do not remove these themselves and do not use over the counter products that can burn the skin and create a wound. Check in with your physician before traveling to ensure the activities you are planning are appropriate for your health.
While others may be going barefoot on the beach, it’s important to always wear shoes, even when inside. Before putting shoes on, a person should check the interior to be sure there are no pebbles or other objects that can cause an injury throughout the day. Poor sensation from diabetic neuropathy may keep a person from recognizing there is a foreign object in the shoes, or feel a burn from hot sand or hot pavement.
It’s common for people to be more physically active while traveling. You can improve blood flow to the feet and reduce the risk of an injury by putting your feet up while sitting. Try moving your toes and ankles to keep the blood flowing up your feet and legs throughout the day. Avoid standing in one place for long periods of time and do not wear tight socks or elastic stockings.
Requirements for Diabetic Foot Wear
When it comes to selecting shoes for traveling, no one-size-fits-all. There are a number of factors that must be considered, such as how long a person has had diabetes, sensation loss, abnormalities or foot deformities and long-term blood sugar control. But before putting on shoes, a person must put on socks. Choose socks that are made for people with diabetes. They have extra cushioning and do not have elastic at the top, which can impede blood flow. The socks are made with fibers that can move moisture away from the skin, which also protects your foot from skin breakdown. It’s important to change socks daily, or twice a day on particularly warm days when you’re active.
People who expect to be more active while away should look for walking shoes with protective features. For instance, they should have seamless interiors so stitching does not cause irritation and lead to a foot ulcer or sore. Extra depth footwear allows for adequate movement of the foot while walking, taking into consideration any minor foot deformities are abnormalities. They also can accommodate custom orthotics a person may require.
A wide toe box removes pressure or friction from the toes and wide widths allow for foot swelling during the day. People with poor sensation, past history of foot ulcers or foot deformities from diabetes benefit most from wearing shoes designed for people with diabetes. Without these challenges, some people may be able to wear normal footwear as long as they follow proper foot care.
Watch for These Signs
While traveling it’s important to prepare for an emergency. People should be sure to bring with them all the supplies needed to care for their feet. This includes their physician’s phone number and emergency contact information. A serious foot problem requires emergency care, since neglecting it can lead to amputation. If your physician has said you are at high risk for a problem with your feet, it’s important to take extra care while traveling. Watch for these signs when you inspect your feet in the morning and evening, and throughout the day:
- Tingling sensation or feeling pins and needles
- Pain or feeling a burning sensation
- Dull ache
- Shiny, smooth skin on your feet
- Loss of feeling in your feet or legs
- Swollen feet
- New sores, blisters, red spots, or painful areas
- Changes in color of one or both feet
- Feet feel cold or hot
If these symptoms arise while traveling, it’s important to seek immediate medical treatment. Serious foot complications can be avoided when initial signs and symptoms are cared for rapidly. Daily foot care and wearing the right shoes all help to reduce the potential risk for complications and ruining your travel plans.