It is of crucial importance for a diabetic to protect his feet from injury and infection. Loss of sensation, reduced circulation and delayed wound healing are potential complications that might result from diabetes. Investing in a sock specifically designed for a diabetic might be the first step for a diabetic towards protection from these complications. Such a sock has continuous direct contact with the skin of the foot throughout the day and thus, might help in preventing complications.
Initially, it was believed that the wearing of socks by a diabetes patient would help in avoiding potential harmful effects by protecting the foot. However, recent medical research has shown that if the sock is not properly designed, it could actually cause negative results for diabetic patients.
Elasticized form-fitted socks will not slide down the ankle or wrinkle inside the shoe. At the same time, a form-fitted sock with a mild amount of compression can promote circulation and reduce swelling. It is nearly unthinkable that a sock could restrict circulation in anyone’s foot. However, this is possible if the sock is not properly designed and is too tight.
In order to ensure proper blood circulation in the foot, the sock should be tight fitting, but at the same time, it should not be excessively tight. Improperly designed socks that have an elasticized ridge at the top cause the red line commonly seen on the skin of the leg of a patient with edema. Properly made socks for a diabetic should have an upper with minimal elastic at the top to avoid such skin irritation.
The recommendation of cotton socks for diabetic patients is also mistaken. Compared to newer synthetic fibers such as Duraspun acrylic, cotton fibers lose shape and take a longer time to dry up inside the shoe. Cotton fiber socks are also rough and become abrasive with multiple wash-wear cycles.
Therefore, for a sock to be protective or therapeutic for the diabetic foot, it should:
1. Contain synthetic moisture-wicking fibers such as Duraspun acrylic or Coolmax polyester to remain soft and provide cushion. Pure cotton fiber socks should be avoided for patients with diabetes as far as possible.
2. Be form-fitted and snug (not tight), with sufficient elasticity to prevent the sock from slipping inside the shoe and stay up on the ankle.
3. Have no harmful dyes or additives, as they might cause skin irritation.
Wearing properly fitted shoes would go a long way in protecting a diabetics foot.
For a diabetic, keeping the feet in shape in the long term takes knowledge and vigilance. For those who fail to protect their feet, the price is severe. Each year, thousands of people with diabetes have amputations. However, most of those amputations are the result of minor injuries that were left untreated and allowed to develop into ulcers. This means that most of those amputations could have been prevented.
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