If you’ve seen a podiatrist for diabetes-related concerns, chances are you’ve heard the word “circulation” mentioned a few times. But what does circulation with diabetes really mean? More importantly, how can people avoid the blood flow related risks that come with a diabetes diagnosis?
This article will help you understand and respond to common circulation concerns with diabetes. We’ll explain exactly what risk factors are involved, then provide you an easy-to-follow checklist to stay as healthy as possible on a daily basis.
What is circulation and why does it matter so much for people with diabetes?
Circulation is another word for “blood flow.” When you have poor circulation, it means that one or more body parts are not getting enough blood. Poor circulation can have many causes, from something as simple as bad fitting shoes through to some something as serious as a heart disorder.
Circulation matters for everyone, but people with diabetes should pay particular attention to this issue. High blood glucose levels caused by diabetes can damage blood vessels, limiting their ability to transfer blood to other cells. This can affect the flow of blood throughout the body.
Luckily, there are ways you can prevent and/or manage poor circulation. We’ve created this Diabetes Circulation Checklist to help guide the process.
Your Diabetes Circulation Checklist
□ Quit smoking. This is a tough one for many, but smoking has the biggest impact on your circulation as a diabetic. If you want to prevent circulation issues, putting down cigarettes should be at the top of your “To Do” list.
□ Do some exercise several times per week. Don’t worry, we aren’t asking you to run a marathon (in fact, you don’t even need to hit the gym!). Just a brisk, 30-45 minute walk several times per week should do the trick. Movement stimulates blood flow in legs, which can prevent peripheral artery disease. For more exercise tips for people with diabetes, click here.
□ Wear therapeutic shoes. Medicare and most insurance plans cover diabetic shoes for patients with a prescription. Approved supplier nocostshoes.com will even send a shoe fitter to your home to help you access shoes with no out of pocket cost. If you don’t have a prescription, you can still order shoes at low cost from their website.
□ Visit a podiatrist regularly. The best person to write your shoe prescription is a medical specialist who deals with foot issues. Annual visits to this type of doctor, called a podiatrist, are also covered by Medicare. They’ll also be able to identify any warning signs of circulation issues and give you tips on how to manage other foot conditions you may have.
□ Take a break when in pain. Regular exercise is important for managing circulation issues, but pushing yourself too far can have serious consequences. People with circulation issues may feel pain in their calves when walking, especially if they are moving quickly, uphill, or on a hard surface. Stop to rest if you are experiencing this, and speak to your doctor as soon as you can.
□ Wear warm support socks. Socks that are too tight or thin can worsen circulation issues for people with diabetes. Diabetic support socks can aid in circulation. They also help to warm up chilly feet, which is a common symptom for those experiencing circulation issues. Do not use hot water or heating pads to warm up your feet, as nerve damage may prevent you from feeling burns.
□ Examine your feet on a daily basis. Many telltale signs of poor circulation are evidence in the feet. Keep an eye out for sores that won’t heal, discoloration, shiny skin and slow toenail growth. If you see anything unusual, discuss it with your podiatrist.
□ Elevate your feet when you are sitting. Paying attention to your feet is important even when you’re not moving. Elevation and wiggling toes from time to time are great ways to encourage blood flow.