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7 tips for diabetics to reduce swelling in the feet

Are you suffering from swollen feet due to diabetes? Here are a few tips to help you deal with it.

Swollen footMost patients suffering from diabetes complain of swelling in the feet and legs. The main reason for this problem is improper blood circulation due to damaged blood capillaries as a result of increased pressure. Damaged capillaries cause peripheral oedema, leakage of fluids into surrounding tissues, which causes swelling. But, there can be several other reasons that could cause swelling in the feet. Therefore proper diagnosis is important.

Poor circulation is also one of the reasons why wounds in diabetic patients don't heal quickly. Mr Bhushan Hemade of Diaped, a chain of multi-disciplinary foot clinics says 'Foot problems are common in people with diabetes and can quickly become serious.' They increases the risk of infections and severe complications like foot ulcers and gangrene that can even lead to limb amputation. That's why, you should not ignore even minor swelling in your feet. In most cases, when the swelling has just started, simple lifestyle changes can reduce swelling and provide relief to a great extent.

1. Exercise regularly: Mr Hemade says 'Regular exercise will improve bone and joint health in your feet and legs, improve circulation to your legs, and will also help to stabilize your blood sugar levels. But you should consult your doctor prior to beginning any exercise program.' Do not practice rigorous exercises as it can lead to exercise-induced oedema.

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2. Elevateyour legs: Elevation of feet (above the heart level) using a support or a pillow for 10-15 minutes every day can help to reduce swelling. Elevation drains out excess fluid from the surrounding tissues and improves circulation.

3. Use compression stockings and bandages: Compression products are now widely available for foot care in diabetics. They exert pressure on the affected area and help to get rid of fluid retention. Increased external pressure also causes the fluid to return to the lymphatic system and improves circulation of blood. A study by Wu SC and colleagues showed that use of mild compression socks in diabetic patients with oedema greatly reduced calf and foot swelling without compromising vascularity.

4. Reduce salt intake: Dietary changes can help a lot in reducing swelling. Diabetics should in general consume less salt and eat foods that are naturally low in sodium because salt increases blood pressure and trigger swelling in the feet.

5. Wear comfortable shoes: Diabetics should avoid wearing tight shoes. It's better to buy shoes with one size bigger so that even if your feet start swollen, circulation won't reduce totally. Also, women having diabetes should avoid wearing high heels. Mr Bhushan suggests visiting a podiatrist for ensuring proper fitting of the shoes or buying shoes from a shop that specializing in shoe fitting for people with diabetes.

6. Massage your feet: Massage improves blood circulation in the entire leg and reduces pain associated with swelling.

7. Be careful about your posture: Don't stand or sit for a long period of time. It causes numbness because of reduced circulation. Also, you should avoid sitting with your legs crossed because it affects blood circulation to the extremities.

Although swelling of feet and legs is a common symptom in diabetic patients, it can often lead to complications like infections due to injury, foot ulcers, gangrene and diabetic neuropathy. Therefore, all diabetics should make it a point to notify all physical changes they notice in themselves to their doctors. Here's some more information on causes and tips for swollen feet.

Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of diabetes.

References:

  • Bowering CK. Use of layered compression bandages in diabetic patients. Experience in patients with lower leg ulceration, peripheral edema, and features of venous and arterial disease.
  • Wu SC et al. Safety and efficacy of mild compression (18 25 mmHg) therapy in patients with diabetes and lower extremity edema.

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