As anyone with diabetes knows, managing the illness involves a lot more than diet. Among the many related issues caused by high blood sugar is the real possibility of damage to nerve fibers, especially in the extremities. This nerve damage is called diabetic neuropathy. According to WebMD, if you have diabetes, you have a 60% chance of developing neuropathy and even people with pre-diabetic conditions can develop pain, tingling, numbness and nerve damage in legs and feet. Because less oxygen reaches the feet, there’s also an increased risk of infection and skin ulcers. So it’s important to be proactive, take good care of your feet and be alert for any changes.
What Can I Do?
Start by getting into the habit of good foot care. Don’t wait until something hurts or worse, until you can’t feel pain, hot or cold in your feet. The National Institutes of Health offers some good guidelines, including these:
- Wash your feet daily with warm water and dry them carefully.
- Check your feet every day for any swelling, cuts, redness, hot spots, bumps, etc. Don’t just rely on what you can feel, since neuropathy can cause numbness.
- Keep feet and toenails groomed, cutting toenails and filing corns and callouses.
- Be careful about exercise, since some activities may be harmful. Consult with your diabetes specialist to make a good exercise plan.
- Wear shoes or slippers to protect your feet from injury and wear soft seamless socks to prevent irritation.
Because diabetics are at a higher risk of skin ulcers and infection, it’s a good idea to wear socks specifically constructed to aid in protecting your feet. Diabetic socks are typically densely padded to protect against injury. They’re also seamless or have flat seams to prevent bunching and to increase comfort. Diabetic socks should be non-binding and are often designed with non-elasticized cuffs.
Moisture increases the risk of infection, so a good diabetic sock is breathable, allowing air to circulate and keeping feet warm in winter and cool in summer. According to DiabetesJournals.org, there’s no consensus on fabrics. What’s important is moisture control and there are benefits to both acrylics and natural fabrics like cotton and wool. Many diabetic socks are white or light-colored; the theory being that a light color makes it easier to spot any draining wound. What everyone does agree on, however, is that the socks be comfortable. So, when selecting diabetic socks, look for padding, smooth or minimal seams, non-binding cuffs, moisture control and breathability.
After that, it’s just a matter of preference. Anklets are great for casual wear and sporting activity. Classic crew socks are always appropriate for both men and women. Knee-length socks may have the added benefit of graduated compression, which improves blood circulation.
There are even specialty socks constructed specifically for ulcer care. These consist of liners and knee-high outer stockings to help manage edema.
We know that managing diabetes requires a holistic approach to diet, exercise, lifestyle choices and more. But don’t let leg and foot health get lost in all of that. The real risk of neuropathy and infection can be lessened by practicing good foot care and by checking regularly for injuries or changes. Diabetic socks are a great aid in your foot health plan.