It took a surprisingly small thing to destroy the life she had built.
Mom never went to a podiatrist because she believed it was not covered by her health insurance. For a person with diabetes, that decision was terribly risky. Worse yet, we later learned that it would have been covered. In November 2020, she developed an ingrown toenail — something that a non-diabetic could have considered minor. But with her diabetes, it was dangerous. My sister and I were unaware she was developing an infection on her toe. By mid-December when she finally told us about this problem, the infection had done irreparable damage. Her toe had to be removed. But more than losing a toe, Mom lost her independence.
She went to live with my sister’s family. And because she’d allowed the infection to take root in her system, it spread despite the amputation. In February 2021, she had to have her leg amputated below the knee. While in a rehab center to learn how to walk, Mom developed bed sores on the other leg. That leg came down with a new infection. Eventually the decision was made to remove the other leg. While in surgery to remove the second leg, she went into cardiac arrest. Two days later,on May 21, 2021, our mother was gone.
Diabetes is the top causes of lower limb amputation. Diabetic neuropathy contributes to this. Diabetic neuropathy occurs when high blood sugar does damage to the nerves in our hands and feet. This neuropathy can be painful. I have neuropathy in my hands, but my feet are healthy. One way I know my feet are healthy is that I can still feel pain. I can feel discomfort from walking across some rocks, and I know when I stub my toe on furniture. My nerves are working in my feet.
With diabetic neuropathy, the feet can become numb. You are unable to feel any pain. A diabetic won’t notice a small, innocent cut on the foot. But then, if they don’t feel it, they may fail to treat it to prevent infection. That’s why it’s critical for diabetics to examine their feet regularly, and to visit a podiatrist as often as needed.
The American Diabetes Association recommends these regular practices:
- Wash your feet thoroughly everyday
- Dry them thoroughly, and don’t forget to dry between your toes
- Moisturize your feet, but avoid moisturizing between your toes
- Keep your toenails trim, and use an emery board to file down sharp edges
- Check your feet for sores, cuts, blisters, corns, or redness daily. Let your doctor know if you find any of these.
- Wear moisture wicking socks
- Before putting your shoes on, check for sharp objects (i.e. small rocks)
- Wear shoes that fit well and don’t rub your feet
While you’re at it, avoid these:
- Don’t walk around barefoot
- Don’t soak your feet
- Don’t smoke
To learn more about taking care of your feet, visit the American Diabetes Association website at this link.