When you have diabetes, your feet are very vulnerable. To keep your feet safe, you have to be aware of potential changes. And it is very important to maintain good control of your diabetes. That's why, today, I'll walk you through what diabetes does to your feet. And share tips for keeping your diabets under control.
Diabetic Foot Complications
You may have heard that diabetes hurts your feet. (I mean, I just told you it does.) But what is diabetic foot? And why should you worry about it?
Diabetic foot is a way of talking about changes to your feet caused by your diabetes. The most common change we see is neuropathy. This is nerve damage that can make your feet burn or tingle. But it can also make it harder to feel your feet. So you a stone in your shoe, or a rubbing sock, and not realize it until you see a big cut or blister at the end of the day.
But neuropathy isn’t just about the way your feet feel. It can also change the shape of your toes and feet. Plus, the skin of your feet may be very dry with diabetes. Especially if there’s damage to the nerves that control moisture levels in your feet.
With diabetic foot, you’re more likely to develop calluses. That’s because you have high pressure areas under your feet. Your podiatrist should carefully trim your calluses. That way they won’t break down and turn into open wounds.
This is very important, since diabetics are more likely to develop foot ulcers. These are wounds that are very difficult to heal. You should consider an ulcer a medical emergency. Because ulcers are one of the main causes of diabetic amputations.
Also, to avoid diabetic foot complications, you should check your feet every day. You’ll look for any changes in the appearance of your feet. If you see a blister, scrape or even a red spot, that’s a change worth mentioning to your podiatrist. You should also schedule regular visits to your podiatrist. At least every three months, if not sooner, get in for a professional foot check.
But the best way to prevent diabetic foot is to keep your diabetes in control. Which is what we’ll review next. Along with one item to keep off your menu if you want to protect your blood sugar levels.
Staying in Control of Diabetes
When your diabetes rages unchecked, your blood sugar levels may rise. At first, you may not realize how this impacts your health and feet. But, if you've noticed light, scaly patches of brown skin on your shins or other spots on your feet, you may need more help managing your diabetes. (Called dermopathy, these patches form when high blood sugar levels damage small blood vessels near the surface of the skin.) With better control, they should resolve in 18 months. So you may want to take big measures in order to bring down those blood sugar levels.
Now, your weight can affect control of Type II diabetes. So, losing weight is a good idea if you have this form of the disease, as long as you're smart about the ways you do it. We know that cutting out sugary drinks like juice and soda is one way to lose a few pounds. But a Purdue University study revealed that choosing diet sodas won’t help us reach our goal weight.
Quite the opposite is true. Researchers now link diet sodas to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. In other words, if you’re opting for a Diet Coke to lose weight and get your diabetes under control, don’t. Because diet drinks are as bad for you as their full calorie, sugar-ridden counterparts.
How can this be true? Read on!
Why Diet Soda Messes with Your Weight
Lead researcher Susie Swithers looked at several studies for her review. She wanted to find out if diet drinks increased the likelihood of overeating, weight gain and other health problems.
And she found that people who drink diet soda are more likely to gain weight than those who drink regular soda. These findings were not limited to one kind of artificial sweetener. (But I will review the rankings of sugar-free options in a bit.) This study looked at diet drinks sweetened with aspartame, sucralose and saccharin. The same findings were evident with each sweetener. All diet drinks increased cravings, and the likelihood of weight gain.
Still, the American Diabetes Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommedn using low- and no-calorie sweeteners. They say it can help you maintain a healthy weight. And they talk about studies that show drinking diet beverages won’t make you gain weight or eat more sweets.
Choosing the Right Artificial Sweetener
Of course, not all artificial sweeteners are created Equal (get it? If not, keep reading for clarification!) When you have diabetes, you have to be smart about your choice of sugar alternatives. Because some may help you control your blood sugar levels. But others may incerase your risk for complications.
Splenda is the best artificial sweetener option for diabetics. Especially if you have Type 2 diabetes. (When you have Type 2 diabetes, your body prevents the insulin it makes from working correctly. It may make some insulin, but not enough. In contrast, with Type 1 diabetes, your body makes little or no insulin due to an overactive immune system. So people with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day.) Splenda is 600 times sweeter than regular sugar. But it doesn’t affect blood sugar and isn’t absorbed as it passes through your body.
Stevia is also generally viewed as a safe option for diabetics. Many people prefer this ‘natural’ sweetener (it’s derived from a plant). But some users get headaches and stomach problems with Stevia.
Saccharin (found in Sweet and Low or pink packets) is a double-edged sword for diabetics. Saccharin triggers food cravings in your body. And that can lead to weight gain, making it more difficult to manage your diabetes.
Aspartame (found in Equal or blue packets) is a low-calorie sweetener that's linked to leukemia, lymphoma and breast cancer. Now, we don't have conclusive evidence of those problems. But why take the risk when there are many better options available?
Choosing the Safest Beverage
As you can see, there are better and worse choices for diet drinks. Ans artificial sweeteners can help maintain your blood sugar. But skipping them and choosing beverages with no sweeteners—like water—is the better way to go.
Like Swithers shows, artificial sweeteners throw off your body's calorie intake meter. "You get this kind of confusion and that can lead to overeating...[and] an increase in blood sugar spikes.”
Blood sugar spikes, as diabetics well know, can allow your illness to spin out of control. That puts you at risk for debilitating foot problems or even amputations. But you can stop diabetes from affecting your feet. How? Make an appointment to see Houston podiatrist Dr. Andrew Schneider at Tanglewood Foot Specialists. He can work with you to ensure your diabetes will not derail your long-term foot health.