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Caring for Vision Impaired’s Feet

Diabetic patients are often overwhelmed with things that they need to do in order to properly manage their disease. So much so that self-care tasks vital to day-to-day health are neglected—things like taking care of their feet.

But how can something as simple as taking care of one’s feet have such a big impact on a diabetic’s over-all health. Well, consider these figures. Diabetics who develop foot infections have 154-fold higher risk of losing the affected foot. According to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, 86, 000 amputations are performed annually as a direct result of diabetes and half of those who have a foot or leg amputated will lose the other within five years.

Taking care of one’s feet can be easy. However, the job becomes quite difficult when one’s vision is impaired. Vision impairment makes it difficult to detect the early signs of foot problems. So how does one do foot care while coping with diminished vision?

Ann Williams, a Certified Diabetes Educator and the former chair of American Association of Diabetes Educators’ Visually Impaired Persons Specialty Practice Group, provides some helpful tips on feet care among the visually impaired.

“Take the time to learn non-visual methods for picking up problems early and to recognize when sighted assistance is needed”, she writes in an article published in Diabetes Self- Management magazine. “Your feet will be able to stand their ground against potentially serious problems.”

Some of the non-visual methods on how to detect foot problems recommended by Williams are the following:

  • Hands-on foot care. After washing and drying the feet, lift one foot to a comfortable resting position and use the balls of your fingertips and thumb to feel the entire surface. Fingertips are especially sensitive to changes in texture. Through hands-on foot care, one can find any breaks in the skin, new corns, calluses, blisters, swollen areas, small objects imbedded in the foot or anything that was not there the day before.
  • Back hand check. Run the back of the hand, which is especially sensitive to temperature, over as much of the surface of each foot. An unusually cool spot may indicate impaired circulation. An unusually warm area which may appear as a reddish spot, is generally the result of inflammation and often indicates the presence of infection.
  • Use the sense of smell. While feet often do not have a particularly pleasant smell, an unusually bad foot odor can be a sign of a fungal infection of another type. Often, a suddenly offensive odor will be the first indication of an infection.

Successful non-visual foot inspection depends on the sensitivity of the hands. In cases where a diabetic patient’s hands are numb, Williams suggests that the patient get the help of a sighted family member or friend. During visits to the doctor, ask a family member or friend with good eyesight to describe what he or she sees on the feet. The description can help the physician decide on a course of action.

Other tips for the general care of the feet are provided by the National Diabetes Foundation Program. Among them are as follows:

  • Wear socks at all times. As much as possible, wear socks to help avoid blisters and sores. Choose clean, lightly padded socks that fit well. Socks that have no seams are best.
  • Keep the blood flow to the feet. Put the feet up when sitting. Wiggle the toes for five minutes, two to three times a day. Move the ankles up and down and in and out to improve blood flow in the feet and legs. Wearing tight socks, elastic or rubber bands or garters around the legs should be avoided.
  • Use proper footwear. When you are diabetic, shoes are more than just a fashion statement. One should choose footwear which is comfortable and have enough room for the toes. Pointed shoes and high heels should be avoided because they put too much pressure on the toes. Vinyl or plastic shoes are also a no-no because they don’t stretch or allow the feet to breathe. Consult the doctor. Diabetic patients are advised to have their feet checked at least four times a year. This way, any problem can be diagnosed and treated immediately.

When vision fails, coping with everyday life becomes harder, especially for diabetics who need to be on constant guard for changes in their bodies. However, with conscientious daily care and with the help of family members and friends, coping and caring for one’s self, even just looking out for your feet, can be a lot easier.

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