Your feet are responsible for carrying you throughout life. They support the entire body which is a very important task. They are susceptible to injury just like any other part of the body, especially if you have diabetes. People with diabetes usually don’t think about foot problems until they develop an issue. Our goal is to educate diabetic patients about potential problems and help them avoid any trouble.
Diabetes affects several important things in the body, including nerves and blood vessels.
Diabetes can cause nerve damage that takes away or changes feeling in the feet. This condition is also known as “neuropathy.” People with diabetes can injure their foot and not know it because they can’t feel their feet. Common injuries include stepping on a splinter or getting a blister from poor fitting shoes.
Neuropathy can also cause sweat gland dysfunction. Dry skin is common due to sweat glands that do not work properly in the feet, leading to cracks or breaks in the skin.
People with diabetes can have problems with blood circulation which can result in low blood flow to the feet. Low blood flow makes it very difficult to heal an injury or resist an infection.
Any injury that opens the skin can lead to an infection. If an infection is difficult to treat, this can lead to life threating blood poisoning or an amputation of the toes, foot, or leg.
Luckily, many diabetic foot problems can be prevented! Wearing well-fitting shoes and never walking barefoot can prevent several diabetic foot problems.
If you are a diabetic, The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons also recommends:
- Check your feet at least weekly (preferably daily) using a mirror or a family member. Sometimes a magnifying glass can be helpful. Check for broken, cracked or sharp nails. Check for broken skin between toes, the ends of toes, the top of the foot and the sole of foot. Check for cracks in any calluses. Check especially for any sores or unusual redness. Call your provider if you notice anything.
- Wear socks to bed to keep your feet warm. If your feet get cold at night, wear socks. Never use a heating pad or hot water bottle.
- Wear clean, dry socks and change them daily. Be sure that your socks do not have a tight elastic band at the top that can reduce blood flow. Check to make sure they are not thick and bulky as they can fit poorly and irritate the skin. White socks are best. At the end of the day, look at your socks. If you see any fluid or blood stains on your socks, check your feet for the source of the stain and seek care if you find any injuries or skin problems.
- Wash your feet in lukewarm water every day. Be sure to carefully test the water before putting your feet in. Use warm water only, not hot. Check the water temperature with your elbow. Some patients who have neuropathy in their feet can also have it in their hands.
- Moisturize your feet every day, but not in between the toes. Use a moisturizer such as lotion or Vaseline to keep dry skin from itching or cracking. Avoid putting moisturizer between the toes. This could lead to a fungal infection.
- Cut your toenails carefully and straight across. Be careful not to cut them too short as this could lead to ingrown toenails.
- Never trim corns or calluses. No “bathroom surgery,” let your provider do it. Do not use cream or liquid medicines for corns or calluses unless prescribed by a provider.
- If you have been prescribed diabetic shoes, wear them. Diabetic shoes are made specially and do a great job protecting feet.
Most importantly, check blood sugars often and keep diabetes well controlled.
For all of our diabetic patients, we recommend seeing a podiatry provider yearly. The purpose of this visit is to check your feet and determine if you need to see a foot care nurse regularly or if you need prescription shoes or insoles.
Diabetic complications can be scary. Treating issues with diabetic feet can be time consuming, expensive, difficult, and frustrating. By following these simple guidelines and by doing persistent regular foot care, the majority of patients can avoid several problems. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” especially with diabetic feet.