If you are suffering from diabetes, you need to take particularly good care of your feet in order to prevent injuries and infections. Diabetics often suffer from nerve damage that can cause numbness in the feet. When the feet are numb, injuries are more likely to go unnoticed. Diabetics also commonly suffer from poor circulation, which slows healing and increases the risk of infection. Combined, nerve damage and poor circulation can lead to more serious conditions. In fact, diabetics have the highest risk of amputation.
Fortunately, there are precautions that can be taken to prevent injuries. And if an injury does occur, prompt treatment can help ensure that more serious conditions are avoided.
Foot ailments affecting diabetics
Diabetics may suffer from foot ailments including:
Tips for diabetics
Keeping diabetes under control can help prevent poor circulation and nerve damage, which is often the cause of more serious foot conditions. If you already have poor circulation and nerve damage as a result of diabetes, there are steps that can be taken to prevent foot ailments.
Diabetes Foot Care Guidelines
To avoid serious foot problems that could result in losing a toe, foot or leg, follow these guidelines provided by the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.
Inspect your feet daily. Check for cuts, blisters, redness, swelling or nail problems. Use a magnifying hand mirror to look at the bottom of your feet. Call your doctor if you notice anything.
Bathe feet in lukewarm, never hot, water. Keep your feet clean by washing them daily. Use only lukewarm water—the temperature you would use on a newborn baby.
Be gentle when bathing your feet. Wash them using a soft washcloth or sponge. Dry by blotting or patting and carefully dry between the toes.
Moisturize your feet but not between your toes. Use a moisturizer daily to keep dry skin from itching or cracking. But don't moisturize between the toes—that could encourage a fungal infection.
Cut nails carefully. Cut them straight across and file the edges. Don’t cut nails too short, as this could lead to ingrown toenails. If you have concerns about your nails, consult your doctor.
Never treat corns or calluses yourself. No “bathroom surgery” or medicated pads. Visit your doctor for appropriate treatment.
Wear clean, dry socks. Change them daily.
Consider socks made specifically for patients living with diabetes. These socks have extra cushioning, do not have elastic tops, are higher than the ankle and are made from fibers that wick moisture away from the skin.
Wear socks to bed. If your feet get cold at night, wear socks. Never use a heating pad or a hot water bottle.
Shake out your shoes and feel the inside before wearing. Remember, your feet may not be able to feel a pebble or other foreign object, so always inspect your shoes before putting them on.
Keep your feet warm and dry. Don’t let your feet get wet in snow or rain. Wear warm socks and shoes in winter.
Consider using an antiperspirant on the soles of your feet. This is helpful if you have excessive sweating of the feet.
Never walk barefoot. Not even at home! Always wear shoes or slippers. You could step on something and get a scratch or cut.
Take care of your diabetes. Keep your blood sugar levels under control.
Do not smoke. Smoking restricts blood flow in your feet.
Get periodic foot exams. Seeing your foot and ankle surgeon on a regular basis can help prevent the foot complications of diabetes.