As June is Feet for Life month, Jenny has asked me to write a guest blog
on foot health for all of you lovely lot. I am currently training to be
a podiatrist and will quite happily ramble about feet to anyone who will
listen. I was told I would have a captive audience so grab a cup of tea
and a biscuit, make yourself comfortable and we’ll begin. Please feel
free to stop me if I’m still going next Tuesday.
It’s quite difficult to pick a foot health topic that will be relevant
to every member of our disability community so I am going to go broad
Look at your feet. If you don’t have feet, look at your legs, stumps,
knees or whatever lower extremity you have. Really look. What does your
skin look like? Any cuts or bits of hard skin? Has that mole always been
there? Do your nails need a trim? When was the last time you had a
really good look at your own feet?
If you have diabetes, I’m really hoping that you’ve had at least a
cursory look in the last 24 hours. Diabetes causes damage to nerves and
blood vessels, meaning that if someone with the condition gets a cut on
their foot not only might they be unable to feel it due to nerve damage,
but the lack of blood supply also means their body is unable to heal it
effectively. I won’t put you off your garibaldi by telling you exactly
what happens if a diabetic foot ulcer is left untreated, but believe me
when I tell you it’s a scary prospect.
“But my insulin levels are fine!” I hear you cry. “Why am I
staring at the little piggy who went to market?”
Well, dear reader, there is an awful lot that can go wrong with the
lower limb if we don’t look after it properly, and the sooner you spot
any problems the greater the chances that they will be resolved quickly
and easily. Most people are familiar with how to check for breast or
testicular lumps and try to check on a fairly regular basis (I recommend
finding a buddy and checking each other), and checking your feet should
be a similar routine couple of minutes out of the month (buddy system
optional depending on your preferences).
So what did you see when you had a look?
I would imagine there would be a bit of redness in places. Probably
around the one or two littlest toes, and maybe around the big toe.
Although most people have this, it is not actually considered normal.
It’s a sign of badly fitting shoes, but as the market is filled with
badly fitting shoes there’s not a lot we can really do about this.
Just keep an eye on this for now, and seek further advice if it becomes
painful, swells, oozes or smells.
I suspect there will also be some hard skin in places. Again, not
considered normal but an unfortunate part of modern life. If it’s not
causing you any problems then we’re not going to worry too much. If it
ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If it’s getting uncomfortable or
splitting it might be time to get some further care though. Try to see a
podiatrist or a chiropodist (they’re the same thing, just use
different words to confuse people) if you can, but a doctor or
pharmacist may be able to help depending on the severity of the problem.
How is your skin looking? Is it soft and supple, or looking a bit dry?
The skin is our first line of defence against bugs and infections, so we
want to keep it in its best possible condition. And when you think that
your feet are down there on the ground with all the dust and bacteria
you realise just how easy it is for something to sneak into a patch of
flaky skin and BAM! Itching and pus and mushrooms and all sorts of
wondrous delights living under your toenails. It’s not just vanity –
moisturising saves lives, people! Or at least prevents another course of
antibiotics. But that’s important too.
And then there’s the one that everyone forgets – moles. When people
get a mole that looks a little iffy on their back the first thought is
to get it checked out with the doctor. Somehow, we seem to forget about
our feet. It’s the same with sun cream. If we’re going out in the
sun the factor 50 gets smeared all over arms, legs and backs, but how
often do we forget about the tops of our feet? If you’re wearing
sandals in the sun that could be a recipe for a very painful few days,
not to mention the same risk of sun damage as the rest of your skin.
It’s particularly tough to think feet if you’ve got a physical
disability that limits your movement. They are all the way down there
and tend not to complain too loudly. And you know what? Most feet are
generally pretty well behaved. The better you look after them, though,
the better they will look after you. I’m not asking for miracles, just
a quick once over every now and then so that you can spot any problems
in their early stages. After all, the earlier you catch anything going
wrong the sooner it can be dealt with and the less chance there is of
you needing more meds or expensive treatment or worse.
If you really can’t reach to see, there are loads of options
available. Ask your doctor if he can have a quick look next time
you’re seeing him. If you have a partner, carer, friend or family
member who helps put your socks on, maybe they could just have a check
every now and then. If you’ve getting your toe nails cut, ask whoever
is doing them to just have a look and let you know if there’s anything
that looks off. If you end up barefoot feeling the grass between your
toes at a ritual some time, ask your fellow participants if anyone is
feeling bold and would be willing to have a goosey while you’ve got
your shoes off already.
Just be wary about asking that one slightly odd neighbour. You know the
one I mean. The one who seems just a little too invested in your foot
health. Unless you’re into that kind of thing of course. In which
case, fill your boots.
Happy Feet for Life Month.