Developing a good foot care plan is very important when you have diabetes.
Diabetes and Taking Care of Your Feet
Diabetes affects many areas of your body, especially the nerves in your feet so taking care of your feet is very important. Over time, these nerves can lose the ability to send signals throughout your body, causing problems with your feet. Keeping your blood sugar levels within your target range will help promote healthy nerve function and help to prevent foot problems. In addition, keeping your blood pressure in an acceptable range, will promote good blood circulation to the feet. Some common signs of poor circulation that can cause problems in your feet include:
- Pain in your legs when walking or lying down
- Feet that feel cold to the touch
- Lack of hair on your feet and lower legs
- Ulcers or sores that don’t heal normally
Caring For Your Feet
To properly taking care of your feet and reduce diabetes-related foot problems, you should follow these guidelines:
- Check your feet every day for signs of redness, swelling, corns, calluses, ingrown toenails, any breaks in the skin, or any other type of irregularity.
- Use a mirror to help you see your entire foot area.
- If you can not check your feet thoroughly, have a family member or friend help you.
- Call your doctor or diabetes care team member about any foot problem so that it can be treated quickly.
- Always try to keep your blood sugar levels and blood pressure in control to lower your risk of diabetes complications, including foot problems.
- See a podiatrist once every year.
Protecting and Taking Care Your Feet
Avoiding damage to your feet is another way that you can help to prevent foot problems. Protect your feet by following these simple steps:
- Avoid using anything hot, such as heating pads, hot water bottles or hot bath water on your feet. People with diabetes often have less feeling in their feet and might not be able to feel when something is too hot!
- Do not soak your feet.
- Be especially careful with your feet when the weather is very hot or very cold.
- Wear footwear at the pool or beach.
- Use sunscreen to avoid sunburn.
- Avoid going barefoot, even in your own home. Injuries occur more often when not wearing shoes that protect your feet. These types of injuries are the second most common cause of foot ulcers and amputations.
- Always dry your feet with a soft towel after bathing, especially between the toes! Wetness between your toes can allow the growth of fungus, which may lead to a serious infection.
- Treat fungal infections with anti-fungal cream, spray, or powder recommended by your doctor or diabetes care team member.
- Always wear socks. It is best to wear well-fitting, soft cotton, synthetic blend, or wool socks.
- Keep your feet from becoming too dry and cracked by regularly applying a moisturizing cream recommended by your doctor or diabetes care team member.
- Use lanolin or hand lotion that does not contain alcohol. Alcohol dries the skin.
- Avoid using moisturizing cream between your toes.
- Use a mirror to inspect the bottom of your feet for dry or cracked areas.
- Thoroughly check the insides of your shoes before putting them on. Rough and worn edges inside a shoe as well as objects that may accidentally find their way into your shoe can cause irritations and ulcers very quickly.
- Make sure that your shoes are both wide and deep enough to help prevent blisters and the development of foot calluses, bunions or sores.
- Trim your toenails carefully (see detailed instructions below). Injuries from cutting your toenails can lead to infection, foot ulcers and amputations.
- Do not cut ingrown toenails or corns and calluses from your feet yourself. Your doctor or diabetes care team member should always treat these foot problems.
- Make sure your doctor, diabetes care team member or foot care specialist (podiatrist) looks at your bare feet with your shoes and socks off during each office visit. These healthcare professionals will check for infection, irritations and deformities. They should also check the circulation in your feet at least once a year.
Taking Care of Your Toenails
When taking care of your feet it is important to properly groom and care for your toenails. If you are not able to see well enough to properly trim and care for your toenails, have a family member or friend help you.
- Trim your toenails straight across.
- Do not cut into the corners of the nails.
- Smooth the rough edges of the toenails with a nail file or emery board following the natural curve of the toe.
When to Contact Your Doctor or Diabetes Care Team Member
Call your doctor or diabetes care team member if any of the following foot problems occur:
- Cuts, blisters, calluses
- Wounds that do not heal
- Signs of infection redness, swelling, pus, drainage or fever
Remember, it is very important to properly care for your feet in order to prevent foot problems or amputations. During your office visits, ALWAYS take your shoes and socks off, so your doctor or diabetes care team member can check your feet thoroughly. Remember, taking care of your feet is also a part of taking care of your health.