“Eight years ago, I lost all the toes on my right foot due to a diabetic wound. Ever since I have been extra careful,” says V Sakaran, from Chennai. “My doctor recommended diabetic socks and I have been using them for the past four months.”
Diabetic socks have been in the market for some time now and more and more companies are promoting them. But how effective are they? We spoke to a few diabetologists and users of these socks to understand them better.
“Diabetic socks are nothing but seamless socks with extra padding or cushioning, just like an insole shoe. The most common ones we recommend are gel socks. They basically protect the feet and reduce the risk of getting an injury or wound,” explains Dr V Balaji, diabetologist at Dr V Seshiah and Dr Balaji Diabetes Care Centre, Chennai.
One of his patients, Manju Reddy, who has been using these socks for the past three months, says they’re a blessing. “I suffer from peripheral neuropathy (damaged nerves) and have no sensation in my feet. Even if something pricks me I know only after I see the bleeding. When I use regular shoes, my skin peels and that causes cellulitis (bacterial skin infection). These socks protect my feet and give them cushioning.”
The International Diabetes Federation has reported that every 30 seconds, one lower limb amputation in people living with diabetes occurs around the world. Though diabetic foot is a serious public health issue, very few studies and investigations have been carried out.
With over 72 million cases in 2017, diabetes is now one of the leading causes of non-communicable disease death in India and the risk of developing foot ulcers is 25% higher in patients with diabetes, say studies published in The Lancet . Diabetic foot is a severe complication associated with diabetes that causes lesions of tissues, along with neurological disorders where sensory nerves are blunted in the lower limbs. Here are a few recommendations on foot care.
Inspect the foot every day
“I ask my patients to check their feet before going to bed. If it is an elderly person, I ask their relative to spend at least five minutes and thoroughly inspect the feet for blisters, corns, calluses, skin peeling, redness, rashes, heel cracks. These are simple, inexpensive techniques that can be lifesaving,” says Dr Ravindran Kumeran, Consultant Surgeon at Apollo First Med Hospitals, Chennai.
Never walk barefoot
Even at home you can step on some sharp object and not feel the pain. “Be extra careful when trimming nails and don’t leave any small cuts unattended to. Never use very-hot water or air heaters. If you have diabetes, you may not realise when the water is extra hot, as the touch sensation is compromised. You may not feel pain or temperature on the feet. Last winter, we got over 50 patients with burn injuries,” says Dr Govind Singh Bisht, Senior Consultant Podiatry, Max Hospital, Gurugram.
Use paraffin wax to moisturise
Keep the feet moisturised, but avoid between the toes as this can lead to fungal infection. Avoid moisturising creams as they soothe only temporarily. When your skin is drier than a regular person’s, it is better to use a cream that has urea and paraffin, as they have a keratolytic effect (softening hard skin), says Dr Bisht.
Chronic smoking causes calcification of the arteries and promotes clotting inside the vessels. This diminishes the blood supply to all parts of the body, including the feet.
“It is essential to wear appropriate footwear according to the physical activity,” adds Dr Bisht. “So if you’re walking, buy walking shoes, but if you’re playing tennis, then wear footwear built for the purpose. Buy the right size, so your foot is not cramped. Shop in the evening, as feet swell towards the end of the day.
Get a periodic foot examination
Even if you have no problem, get your feet examined once a year. But if there is a loss of sensation or any sort of neuropathy, then check in with the doctor every six months; and if corns or calluses develop, then once in three months.