A Source of Toe-tal Stress

I don’t like horror stories.

I’m not big on scary things, in general (besides Halloween…I love dressing up)…but horror stories, in the form of tales told ’round the campfire or in media such as television or film, have never been my cup of tea. Probably because I’m a giant scaredy-cat, but I digress.

My disdain for horror doesn’t mean I’ve been able to successfully avoid it over the years. I’ve traipsed through my share of haunted houses, watched countless scary movies (with my hands over my eyes for a good portion of all films), and listened to spooky ghost stories.

The scariest story of all that I’ve heard over and over again has to do with…

Diabetes. And feet. Without going into more detail – because I’m shuddering at the mere thought – diabetes complications could lead to, um, amputations.

I’m not trying to make light of a very serious subject here: Let me be crystal clear when I say that diabetes complications are real and terrible, I wouldn’t wish them on anyone. They also frighten me so much that I tend to avoid blogging or even talking about them altogether. The slightest blur in my vision or tingling in my toes can send waves of panic through my brain that are so intense that I convince myself that I’m experiencing my first diabetes complications.

So when I discovered a cut on my toe several weeks ago, I couldn’t help but totally freak out, especially when I noticed blood around the site.

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As a person with diabetes, you’d never catch me barefoot and surrounded by all those rocks. OUCH.

For most people, a cut on the toe sounds like no big deal – you just put some antibiotic cream on it, wrap a Band-Aid around it, and let it heal. But for someone like me who has diabetes, a little cut triggers fears of serious issues like cellulitis or other infections that could lead to major problems.

It might sound ridiculous, but in the first couple days after I noticed my cut (it was a bit like a split in my skin), I had horrifying visions of my toe turning black and falling off. I became hyper-aware of every sensation I could and couldn’t feel in that area, and when I felt a slight stinging around the area a few times, I imagined that it meant that my days with all of my toes were numbered.

Was it silly for me to jump to such dramatic conclusions? Probably. Was I being paranoid? Definitely. But my overactive imagination was enough to convince me to at least consult my primary care physician about the matter.

I’m glad that I did. Over a two-week span, I had two virtual appointments with my doctor who took my concerns seriously. I described the issues and he gave me advice as to how to treat the cut (stop putting Neosporin and a Band-Aid around it each day, let it breathe, use a nail file to very gently proximate the wound, make sure I wear socks and shoes for all forms of exercise to better protect my feet). He agreed with my overarching concern: to heal it in order to prevent it from getting worse.

My toe is doing much better now, and after all that, I feel a bit (okay, a lot) sheepish that I made such a big deal about it in my head when I initially spotted the split in my skin. But in life with diabetes, everything related to my health has to be taken seriously, even if it means dealing with an added source of toe-tal stress.

 

A Tough Topic: Diabetes Complications

I’m broaching a subject I’ve never openly discussed in an online forum in today’s blog post…and that is diabetes complications.

The reason why I’ve never talked about complications is straightforward: They absolutely terrify me.

It’s a topic that’s so foreign and frightening to me that I don’t even know the full extent of diabetes complications. You can Google them, for sure, and discover a long list of scary conditions involving the heart, eyes, extremities, and other internal organs. But I’d rather not do that to myself, let alone the audience of this blog.

I don’t want you to think that I’m naive, though…I know that not talking about something doesn’t mean that it’ll just go away or never happen.

Recently, I became glaringly aware of this fact through the form of (what I presume to be) my own diabetes complication: tendonitis in my left hand.

In the last year or two, I’ve felt sporadic sensitivity in my left hand when I fully extend my wrist, bear any weight on it, or even when I do simple wrist rotations. I never really knew when to expect the pain, but it happened every few months and lasted about a week each time. So when I felt it again around the time I was due for my annual physical with my PCP, I decided to ask him about it.

He explained to me that, based on the type of pain and its duration, it wasn’t carpal tunnel (numbness and tingling are symptoms of that, not pain) like I thought it might be. It also wasn’t arthritis (I didn’t have swelling or reduced range of motion) or neuropathy (I wasn’t experiencing pins and needles), but he did say that those aren’t uncommon in people with diabetes. That’s when he located the exact inflamed tendon – the thick, fibrous cord that attaches muscle to bone – in my left hand/wrist that was giving me trouble.

A Tough Topic_ Diabetes Complications
Me with my new (but occasional) accessory.

Just like all the aforementioned conditions, my tendonitis is probably due to my diabetes. Although my PCP didn’t explicitly state that I definitely have it because I’ve had diabetes for 22 years, he did identify a cause-and-effect relationship between the two. But, fortunately, he also reassured me that my occasional flares of tendonitis are nothing to worry about. As long as I continue to do what I’m doing (which is supporting my hand and wrist with a brace when I experience bouts of pain, as well as rest the area as much as possible during those times), then I’ll be totally fine.

While I’m not exactly thrilled to have to deal with tendonitis, I am very relieved that I know there’s an explanation to help make sense of it all, and that I’ve been doing the right things to handle it. So even though I won’t be going out of my way to research any other diabetes complications any time soon (why on earth would I want to stress myself out unnecessarily), I have come to terms with my tendonitis as a possible complication for me. And rather than seeing it as a completely negative thing, I’ve decided to just keep doing what I’m doing, and continue to take the best possible care I can of myself and my diabetes.

They say prevention is the best medicine for a reason, right?