5 Tips to Protect your Lower Extremities

If you have diabetes, heart disease, or vascular disease,  it is essential to take proper care of your lower extremities. If left untreated, your risk of heart attack, stroke or even amputation increases. The good news is, these conditions are treatable and preventable. Below are 6 tips to properly care for your lower extremities to decrease your risk of amputation.

  1. Wash and Moisturize 
    • Create a nightly foot routine that includes washing and moisturizing your feet. Oftentimes, ulcers can form on the feet of patients with vascular diseases. These ulcers can come from dry cracked skin. If the foot goes unwashed, it can then become infected. It is important to wash your feet nightly and moisturize to avoid infection in any area of the foot. If an infected ulcer is left untreated, the risk of amputation is greatly increased, especially in patients with diseases like peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Talk to your doctor about the best types of moisturizer to use for your feet.
  2. Choose the Appropriate Footwear 
    • If you have PAD, it is important to choose the proper footwear for your comfortability. Do not wear any shoes that will irritate your skin and cause a sore. It is also best to wear shoes that do not leave your foot exposed. Thick socks can offer even more cushion for your feet.
  3. Exercise
    • Exercise will help your heart pump the appropriate amount of blood to your lower extremities. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week. This is less than 30 minutes a day. However, if you have PAD or other vascular diseases, it can be beneficial to keep your feet and toes moving throughout the day as well. This can be as simple as making circles with your feet and wiggling your toes periodically.
  4. Check all Parts on the Feet and legs Daily 
    • When you have diabetes, you could also have diabetic neuropathy (tag). This causes a numbness in the feet. Checking your feet daily, including the bottoms of the feet and in-between each toe, could prevent a sore or ulcer from going unnoticed. 
  5. Trim Toenails Properly
    • This may seem like common sense, but cutting the toenails the proper way can save you from an unnecessary amputation. Be sure you are not cutting them too short or too round. Most importantly do not cut into the skin.

Source: American Heart Association, Everyday Health, National Institutes of Health