Most patients suffering from diabetes complain of swelling in the feet and legs. The main reason for this problem is improper blood circulation due to damaged blood capillaries, as a result of increased pressure. Damaged capillaries can lead to peripheral oedema, leakage of fluids into surrounding tissues, which in turn causes swelling. But, there can be several other reasons that could cause swelling in the feet. Therefore, proper diagnosis is important.
Poor circulation is also one of the reasons why wounds in diabetic patients don’t heal quickly. In fact, too many patients are faced with this scenario, since they take the issue way to lightly. It can be stressed too much; foot problems are common in people with diabetes, and can quickly become serious. They increase the risk of infections, and severe complications like foot ulcers and gangrene, that can even lead to limb amputation. That’s why, you should not ignore even minor swelling in your feet. In most cases, when the swelling has just started, simple lifestyle changes can reduce it, and provide relief to a great extent.
Tips to Deal with the Swelling of the Feet
- Exercise regularly – Regular exercise will improve bone and joint health in your feet and legs; improve circulation to your legs; and will also help to stabilise your blood sugar levels. But you should consult your doctor prior to beginning any exercise program. Do not practise rigorous exercises as it can lead to exercise-induced oedema.
- Elevate your legs – Elevation of your feet using a support or a pillow for 10-15 minutes every day, can help to reduce swelling. Elevation drains out excess fluid from the surrounding tissues and improves circulation.
- Use compression stockings and bandages – Compression products are available for foot care in diabetics. They exert pressure on the affected area, and help to get rid of fluid retention. Increased external pressure also causes the fluid to return to the lymphatic system and improves circulation of blood. Mild compression stockings/ socks in diabetic patients with oedema greatly reduces calf and foot swelling, without compromising the ability of the veins to efficiently do their job.
- Reduce salt intake – Dietary changes can help a lot in reducing swelling. Diabetics should in general consume less salt, and eat foods that are naturally low in sodium, because salt increases blood pressure, and trigger swelling in the feet.
- Wear comfortable shoes – Diabetics should avoid wearing tight shoes. Also, women with diabetes should avoid wearing high heels. Visit a podiatrist to ensure proper fitting of your shoes, or buy shoes from a shop that specialises in shoe fitting for people with diabetes.
- Massage your feet – Massage improves blood circulation in the entire leg, and reduces pain that could be associated with swelling.
- Be careful about your posture – Don’t stand or sit for a long period of time; it causes numbness because of reduced circulation. The problem is that the circulation appears in other parts of the body, as well, but the reason that the legs are usually affected more, is due to a decreased level of activity and prolonged sitting. So you should avoid sitting with your legs crossed because it affects the blood circulation to the extremities.
Finally, poor circulation can also result in neuropathy, or nerve damage, one of the complications that can contribute to swelling of feet and legs. It happens because blood is not flowing properly, and the diminished blood supply eventually begins to take its toll. Once the nerves are subjected to extreme damage, they become damaged forever. Unfortunately, by the time pain is felt, some damage has usually already occurred. That’s why it is important that you contact your doctor immediately, once you begin to experience tingling, pain, or numbness.
It’s new year, and I wish to make a special appeal to all those affected by diabetes, to be more vigilant and compliant. Do your regular checks, and make it a point to notify all physical changes that you notice, to your doctor or podiatrist, where applicable.
Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!