Diabetes Complications

10 Tips to Treat Swollen Feet from Diabetes

Back in 2018, up to 10.5% of the American population had been diagnosed with diabetes.

Each year, we see a constant increase in new diabetes cases. This growing trend is reducing the quality of life and the health of more and more people worldwide. So, we are left fighting against it. 

Researchers and doctors everywhere are working tirelessly to find out more about the potential causes and treatments. Luckily, they have offered quite a few treatment options regarding diabetes swollen feet.

This is probably one of the most common symptoms linked to diabetes and one of the most troubling ones. In today’s article, we offer ten tips on how to relieve some of that swelling at home. 

Diabetes and swelling

In patients with diabetes, their body is no longer able to process blood glucose, or blood sugar, as it does in a healthy individual. To do that, the body needs insulin, which a hormone secreted by your pancreas. Because of the lack of insulin, the unabsorbed blood sugar will accumulate in the blood. This will damage the blood vessels, thus contributing to poor blood flow. 

Leaving diabetes untreated should be avoided because of all of the complications that come with it. One of the complications of untreated diabetes is edema in the feet. Because of the inability of the blood to circulate properly, the body retains fluid. This happens more commonly in some places than others.

Such examples are the feet and arms. Peripheral edema can also be a symptom of kidney disease, liver disease, heart failure, venous insufficiency, and infection, among other health issues. Gestational diabetes, which is diabetes during pregnancy, is another common cause of leg swelling. 

Leg swelling is a common foot problem among diabetics. Any diabetic patient should learn about proper foot care. They also need to be instructed on how to notice a potentially swollen foot and what to do about it. Sometimes, the edema can help diagnose sprains and ankle injuries that would otherwise go unnoticed because of the possible peripheral neuropathy. 

Peripheral neuropathy is the most common complication of diabetes. It represents nerve damage that occurs due to severely high blood sugar levels during diabetes.

It causes pain, loss of sensation, and numbness, which would explain why the ankle injury would go unnoticed. But, because of the present swelling, the patient can ask for help, which will lead to the doctor diagnosing the issue.

Without the swelling, scrapes and cuts can go unnoticed as well. This could potentially lead to an infection, as well. You now understand why taking care of the feet is vital for each patient. Each patient should inspect their feet for any swelling regularly and report any unusual symptoms to their doctor as soon as possible. In the meantime, many useful ways can help reduce leg swelling. 

The 10 ultimate tips for swollen feet due to diabetes

In the case of diabetes swollen feet, the patient will be examined by a podiatrist. A podiatrist is a doctor that specializes in taking care of any issues linked to the lower extremity, with a focus on the feet.

While they can recommend treatment, there are other methods that you can use to relieve some of the edemaa. Here we have ten excellent tips that will eliminate some of that swelling and improve your overall condition and quality of life. 

1) Invest in quality compression socks

One of the best investments for a diabetic patient is compression socks. Compression socks make sure to exert pressure from the swollen ankle area, thus eliminating fluid retention. By doing so, they are reducing leg swelling and improve blood circulation. While being the tightest around the ankle, the socks are gradually less constrictive as they move up to the knee.

Usually, patients with varicose veins are recommended to use compression socks. It is important to know that these socks are worn during the day while being removed at night. They are no different than regular socks. Some patients wear them on one leg, and others wear them on both legs. This depends on the severity of the edema and the doctor’s opinion. 

You can easily purchase compression socks in your local pharmacy or even your favorite grocery store. Keep an eye on the level of compression that these socks are offering. It can variate from light, medium, to heavy. Which level you should choose is a decision that you and your doctor will make together.  

2) Elevate your feet

Another great way to reduce fluid buildup in the feet is by elevating the feet above your heart level. This will allow for the fluid to return towards the body instead of building up in your feet, causing discomfort and swelling. 

The easiest way to elevate your feet is by using pillows or an ottoman, depending on your position. Elevate your feet whenever you are sitting down or lying in bed. Even 10-15 minutes will make a great difference and improve your blood flow.

3) Maintain a healthy weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is a great way to prevent a long line of health issues. Obesity has been scientifically linked to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc. Perhaps that is what has been the cause in your case. But obesity can not only cause, but it can also worsen the symptoms of these health issues. 

In diabetes, being overweight can cause more significant joint pain, increased leg swelling, dangerously high blood sugar levels, etc. By maintaining a healthy weight, you can prevent many of these complications and generally improve your condition. It will be easier for your body to maintain normal blood sugar levels, thus preventing further damage to your blood vessels, which ultimately contributes to swelling and poor blood flow. 

One of the easiest ways to achieve a healthy weight is to keep an eye on your diet-practice portion control by filling half of your plate with veggies. Next, fill at least one-fourth of the plate with protein and the rest of the plate with healthy carbs. Download a calorie tracking app to track your daily calorie intake. Make sure that you drink enough water and, most importantly, be physically active. 

4) Exercise daily

Exercising daily will not only help reduce the swelling, but it will also bring additional health benefits. It will boost your blood flow, improve your mood, speed up the metabolism, and much more. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical exercise, around 4-5 days a week. 

But be careful. Because of the pain and swelling in the diabetic foot, do always choose non-weight-bearing exercises. Walking, cycling, swimming, and doing a low-impact home workout with resistance bands are great choices. If you happen to feel any pain in the diabetic foot, discontinue the physical activity, and contact your doctor immediately. 

5) Limit your salt intake

Did you know that the recommended guidelines state that an adult should not intake more than 2,300 mg salt per day? And yet statistics show that the average American eats around 3,400 mg salt per day. Diabetic patients and those with high blood pressure issues should always consume less salt through their diet. Salt will cause the leg swelling to worsen. 

Instead of salty foods, choose foods that are naturally low in salt. Fresh fruits and veggies and unprocessed foods are great examples. Avoid fast and processed foods. These are the foods that are usually carrying the highest amount of salt within them-instead of salt, using spices such as rosemary, thyme, paprika, and garlic powder to give your meals a better taste.

6) Stay hydrated 

There is no denying the fact that hydration is key for good health. However, many of us go through the day without consuming a single glass of water. We would rather drink sodas and coffee instead of drinking some nice, freshwater.

If you want to improve your blood sugar levels, you better increase your daily water intake. To make things easier, carry a water bottle with you wherever you may go. That way, you will be reminded to drink enough water.

Now, this is where a lot of diabetic patients feel confused. We say that their bodies are retaining extra fluid. Then why would one want to drink even more fluid? It is easy. When you are drinking more water, naturally, your body will work harder to expel more fluid. This is just the effect that we were hoping to achieve. 

In addition, your body may be retaining more fluid because you are dehydrated. Did you think about that? So, instead of avoiding water, make water, your best friend. Of course, it is always recommended that you consult your primary physician before increasing your fluid intake. 

7) Take a magnesium supplement

Magnesium is a vital mineral. The average adult needs around 200 to 400 mg of magnesium per day. It works in our advantage to maintain a healthy nerve function, preventing nerve damage, and regulating the blood sugar levels, among other functions that it has. 

Swollen legs may be a symptom of a magnesium deficiency. In that case, you would need to take a magnesium supplement. Eating more magnesium-rich foods such as almonds, spinach, and pumpkin seeds are recommended as well.

Do consult your doctor before you purchase a magnesium supplement. If you happen to be diagnosed with kidney disease, a magnesium supplement may make your condition worse. Taking too much magnesium can also cause some health complications.

8) Prepare an Epsom salt bath for your feet

Why not pamper yourself with a nice Epsom salt bath for your feet? Epsom salt is a popular natural remedy for a number of health issues. And it just so happens to help against diabetic foot problems such as swelling and pain. This is a great method of foot care.

If you happen to struggle with calluses as well, Epsom salt is here to help you. After enjoying your Epsom salt bath, your calluses will get softer. It is then that you use a foot file to eliminate any annoying calluses and say goodbye for good. 

Simply fill your tub with some Epsom salt and take a nice, long bath. Or soak only your feet for about 15 to 20 minutes. The nutrients that the Epsom salt has to offer will be absorbed through the skin and right into your swollen feet. A little reminder, though – If you have diabetic neuropathy, do test out the water temperature first to prevent any foot injuries. 

9) Use essential oils

If you are into trying out natural remedies, then you need to try some essential oils. Using certain essential oils can improve your blood flow, thus reducing the present edema. Of all essential oils, the lavender essential oil seems to be the one with the most scientific proof. Other examples are peppermint, chamomile, and eucalyptus essential oils. 

To use essential oils, apply a few drops, and gently massage your feet. The massage movements are always in the heart’s direction to ensure that the fluid is coming back to the body. For the ultimate effect, have your partner to massage your feet while you keep them elevated on the bed or the ottoman. Keep the movements slow and smooth to avoid damaging and bruising of the skin.

10) Get away from the couch

And last but not least important is your overall physical activity. Let’s say that you have gotten up the couch and done your 30 minutes of daily exercise. It would be wrong to spend the rest of the day sitting down. Sitting down for prolonged periods of time is what is making your swelling and pain worse in the first place.

To ensure good blood circulation, make sure that you get up every hour and take a short walk. Maybe you walk up and down the stairs a couple of times. Or maybe you will be doing a few stretches. Whatever it is, as long as it keeps you moving is a great choice.

The good idea is to invest in a smartwatch that comes with reminders to keep you away from sitting too long. And when you do move around the house, do wear a good diabetic slipper. These slippers are specially designed to reduce the risk of skin injuries in diabetic patients. 

When to see a doctor

It is always good to know when you should consult your doctor. In diabetic patients, it is recommended that they consult a doctor whenever they notice swelling of the feet. As soon as they have diagnosed the issue, your next call should be in case of a worsening of the swelling. 

Say you have tried to relieve the swelling by using the natural methods, which we explained before. If the swelling still does not reduce, you should consult your doctor. A quick visit to the doctor’s office should be made in case the swelling is localized to one side of the body.

In that case, the issue may be caused by a case of deep vein thrombosis. This means a blood clot develops in one or more deep veins in the body, which can lead to more serious complications. 

You should always visit your doctor regularly. Together, you can determine a schedule for regular visits. This will allow the doctor to keep an eye on a possible infection, foot ulcer, injury, fracture, etc. 

Conclusion

Whether it is diabetes, heart failure, or kidney disease that has been causing your feet to swell, it is important that you take care of the issue.

Feet swelling can be a warning sign that something bigger such as infection, is happening in the body. Not to mention the grade to which the swelling is reducing the quality of one’s life. And to think that feet swelling can be easily managed. 

Invest in some quality compression socks, drink enough water, and move more are some of the tips that we had for you today. These tips have been tested out by diabetic patients in the past and have helped them relieve some of the swellings. Why not enjoy them too? Start by going for a walk and preparing a healthy meal. It will be easier from there.

Sources

  1. Kharroubi, A. T. (2015). Diabetes mellitus: The epidemic of the century. World Journal of Diabetes, 6(6), 850. doi:10.4239/wjd.v6.i6.850
    Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4478580/
  2. Wu, S. C., Crews, R. T., Skratsky, M., Overstreet, J., Yalla, S. V., Winder, M., . . . Andersen, C. A. (2017). Control of lower extremity edema in patients with diabetes: Double-blind randomized controlled trial assessing the efficacy of mild compression diabetic socks. Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, 127, 35-43. doi:10.1016/j.diabres.2017.02.025
    Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5429175/
  3. Boulton, A. J. (2018). Diagnosis and management of diabetic foot complications. Arlington, VA.: American Diabetes Association.
    Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538977/
  4. Naidoo, P., Liu, V. J., Mautone, M., & Bergin, S. (2015). Lower limb complications of diabetes mellitus: A comprehensive review with clinicopathological insights from a dedicated high-risk diabetic foot multidisciplinary team. The British Journal of Radiology, 88(1053), 20150135. doi:10.1259/bjr.20150135
    Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4743571/

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