Diabetes and Foot Care

When you have diabetes, taking proper care of your feet is extremely important.  Diabetics are more prone to cuts, ulcers, and sores on the skin, which can sometimes lead to serious infections. An article published in the Health Science Journal noted that foot problems remain a major cause of hospitalization amongst patients with diabetes.  In fact, a diabetics' lifetime risk for developing skin ulcers is estimated to be as high as 25 percent. 

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to keep your feet healthy and minimize your risk of serious complications. Get started with these simple tips:

  • Do an inspection. Take a few minutes each morning to check your feet for cuts, blisters, redness, swelling, or nails problems.  Diabetics often have an altered sensation in their feet which can lead to decreased ability to feel pain, heat, or cold.  If minor injuries to the feet are left untreated, complications can result and lead to ulcerations and possibly amputations.
  • Clean and moisturize. Make it a point to wash your feet on a daily basis. Using warm (not hot) water, be sure to clean them with a soft sponge so you can avoid making any abrasions. Dry them well with a gentle blotting motion, making sure to get between your toes.  You can use a moisturizer on your feet, but avoid applying the cream between your toes, where bacteria can often thrive.
  • Take care of  your toenails. It's best to cut your toenails when they're soft, so after your shower or both, check to see if your toenails need trimming. Cut the nails straight across, and smooth them with an emery board.  Avoid cutting into the corners of the toes, as this can cause cuts or sores.  If you're feeling unsure about trimming your toenails yourself, you can always ask your podiatrist to cut them for you.
  • Wear comfortable socks. Although it may be a great feeling to walk barefoot (especially in the warmer weather), those with diabetes should certainly avoid doing this. Always wear socks, stockings, or nylons with your shoes to avoid blisters and/or sores.  In addition, choose socks made of cotton, wool, or cotton poly blend, which will keep your feet dry.  Remember, dampness leaves room for bacteria to grow.
  • Choose sensible shoes. If you're a diabetic, shoes are much more than a fashion statement, according to the American Diabetes Association.  A proper fitted shoe can help you avoid some serious problems.  If you are at risk for foot problems because of abnormal nerve function or circulation, your podiatrist can recommend a proper shoe. And sometimes a prescription for special shoes is advisable, especially if you're prone to calluses, which occur more often and build up faster on the feet of those with diabetes. It's best to avoid synthetic, plastic shoes, for this can hamper the foot's ability to breathe probably.
  • Don't smoke. When it comes to the ill effects that smoking can have on your body, the list is endless. And for diabetics, avoiding the habit is especially important. Smoking affects small blood vessels and can cause decreased blood flow to the feet, causing wounds to heal slowly.  In many cases, people with diabetes that required amputations were known to be smokers. 
  • Exercise with care. When in doubt, discuss with your doctor an exercise program that is right for you. But as a general rule, avoid all activities that are hard on the feet such as running and jumping. Walking, swimming, and bicycling are better options since they're much easier on the feet. Remember, when doing any form of exercise, it's important to wear a protective walking or athletic shoe that fits well and offers good support for your feet.