January 10th, 2020 by
Diabetes is a complex but incredibly common condition that affects around 4 million people in the UK. No two cases of diabetes are exactly alike, meaning there are many different symptoms that can affect people in different ways. Despite this, many people believe it’s a hard and fast rule that diabetic people should never use an electric blanket. If you’re diabetic, or if you’re looking at an electric blanket as a gift for someone who is, you’ll be pleased to know this isn’t quite true! However, there are a few extra precautions you should take when using a heated blanket – this guide will put your mind at rest about all of them.
The Short Version
Yes, you can use an electric blanket if you have diabetes, but it’s advisable that you only use it to pre-heat your bed. Use a model with a built-in timer and program it to switch off just before you climb into bed. For more detailed information, keep reading.
One of the side-effects that occurs alongside diabetes is neuropathy. Neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that occurs when high blood sugar damages the blood vessels around your nerves. It’s what causes the pins and needles or numbness that diabetic people often feel in their fingers and toes.
In addition to this, diabetes can also cause damage to skin cells. This can result in a number of different issues, including making your skin more sensitive to temperature. Now, modern electric blankets are fitted with overheat protection systems that stop them from ever getting hot enough to burn somebody, which for most people is fine. If you have diabetes, however, and areas of your skin are very sensitive to heat, there could be a risk of irritation and possibly even burns.
In some cases, these issues might occur at the same time so someone may not be able to tell they’re being burned until it’s too late. While the chances of this actually happening are very slim, it does mean you have to be careful when using an electric blanket.
How to Use an Electric Blanket if You Have Diabetes
Generally, we advise that people with diabetes should only use an electric blanket with a timer. This will allow you to warm up your bed then have the blanket turn itself off just before you get in. This will make your bed cosy while you fall asleep without any risk of burns.
Benefits of an Electric Blanket if You Have Diabetes
None of this means that you should completely rule out an electric blanket, however. They can still be very beneficial if you use them carefully. Diabetes can affect circulation, which means your feet get really cold through the night. The warmth from an electric blanket encourages blood to flow around your body, keeping your feet at a more comfortable temperature.
While diabetics do need to use a bit of extra caution when using an electric blanket, it’s a much safer option than a hot water bottle. You can’t really control the temperature of a hot water bottle, so there’s a very real risk they could end up too hot and cause burns, especially if you’re suffering from neuropathy.
The Touch Test
If you’re worried about a loss of feeling in your feet, there’s a quick test you can do with a partner or family member. It involves them gently touching your toes while your eyes are closed, and shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. Your partner will very lightly touch six of your toes – three on each foot – in a particular order. If you can’t feel two or more of these touches, you should see your GP for more information.
Check the video from Diabetes UK below for more information.
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