People with diabetes are at higher risk for foot problems. People who have had diabetes for many years and those whose blood sugar is not controlled, are at highest risk.
Diabetes can affect the blood vessels. Weakened blood vessels result in poor blood flow to the lower parts of the legs and feet. This causes slow healing of injuries. Diabetes can also affect the nerves in the feet. This reduces the ability to feel cuts, sores or blisters on the feet. For people with nerve damage, it is possible for a foot to become injured. A foot injury can become badly infected without any pain or discomfort. Daily foot care and attention to foot injuries can prevent serious problems and most amputations. What are the things you should do every day to care for your feet?
Important steps to take:
- Wash your feet every day with mild soap and water. Test the water with a thermometer or your elbow, since your feet may not be able to feel very hot temperatures.
- Dry feet with a soft towel. Dry in-between the toes.
- Keep toenails trimmed. Using a toenail clipper, cut straight across and file edges with an emery board or nail file. Nails are softer and easier to trim after bathing.
- Check the top and bottom of your feet every day. Look for cuts, cracks, blisters, calluses, bruises or red spots. Use a mirror if needed to see the bottom of your feet.
- If your skin is dry, use oil-based cream to keep your feet soft. Do not apply lotion between your toes.
- If your feet sweat a lot, use powder.
- Use padding on corns and bunions. Do not use home treatments such as corn removers or razor blades because they can make the problem worse.
- Padding like sheepskin or cotton can be placed between toes that overlap. This will help prevent blisters.
Things you can do to prevent foot problems:
- Avoid going barefoot both indoors and outdoors.
- Socks should be thick and soft. They should be made of cotton, polyester or cotton-polyester blend. Do not wear socks that are mended or have seams. They can cause blisters or other skin injuries. Avoid socks with tight elastic on the top. Do not use garters to hold up your stockings. Avoid panty girdles that are too tight around your legs.
- Wear shoes that fit so your feet do not get blisters, sores or calluses.
- Buy shoes made of leather or canvas so your feet can "breathe."
- Shop for shoes later in the day when your feet are at their largest. Try on both shoes and buy the size for your bigger foot. Make sure you have room for your toes to wiggle.
- Buy shoes that cover your whole foot. Sandals, open-toe and open-heel shoes do not give you enough protection. Keep the heel low, about one inch or less.
- Break in new shoes slowly by wearing them for one or two hours a day.
- Shake out your shoes. Feel the insides. Before putting them on, make sure there are no pebbles or sharp or rough spots.
- Heating pads, hot water bottles, microwavable warmers and vibrating footbaths should not be used on your feet because they can cause burns.
- In the winter, wear wool socks for warmth and waterproof shoes or boots for outdoor activities.
- At the beach, protect your feet by wearing swim shoes. Prevent sunburn by applying sunscreen on the tops of your feet.
- Do not soak your feet. Soaking can cause dry skin.
When problems arise, the following can help:
- Improve your blood flow by starting an exercise program. Try walking and foot exercises. Check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
- If you smoke, give up the habit as tobacco will add to your circulatory problems.
- Small cuts should be washed and rinsed well. Cover with a sterile gauze pad and hold in place with nonallergic tape.
- Products like iodine, mercurochrome and merthiolate can burn the skin and should not be used. Because they discolor the skin, you may not be able to see early signs of a problem.
- If cuts are not getting better after two days, contact your doctor. He/she can suggest a podiatrist (foot care specialist) or order something for the cut.
How can your doctor help you?
- Your doctor should check your feet at every visit. Always take your shoes and socks off. If your doctor does not check your feet, ASK!
- Your doctor can check for feeling in your feet with a small device called a monofilament. A thorough foot exam should be done once each year.