Taking the time to care for your feet pays off when you have diabetes. Foot care can greatly reduce your risk for diabetic neuropothy, injuries and foot problems like athlete’s foot that can lead to hard-to-heal infections.
First, douse the flame. It may not seem related to your feet, but smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your feet.
Smoking causes circulation problems, which can lead to a cascade of more problems.
Poor circulation means your toes don’t get enough oxygen. This nerve damage, called neuropathy, can lead to mobility problems, as well as infections if you don’t treat a wound because you can’t feel it. Poor circulation also keeps wounds from healing properly.
Take time to reflect on your soles. Use a mirror to see the bottom of your feet easily. Look for blisters, cuts, sores, redness, swelling or cracks between your toes or on your heels.
Care for your feet like they are priceless to you:
• Wash feet and between toes with soap and water.
• Dry your feet and between toes, too.
• Don’t soak your feet because it can break down your skin.
• Apply moisturizer to your feet, but not between your toes because you want that area to stay dry. Damp skin breeds bacteria.
• Consider sleeping in moisturizing socks to keep away heel cracks.
• Play it safe: let your doctor cut your toenails so you don’t cut yourself or trim them improperly, which can lead to ingrown toenails and infection.
Keep your socks on—unless you’re at the doctor’s. When you wear shoes, always wear socks. And always wear shoes—don’t walk around barefoot.
When you see your doctor that specializes in diabetes, your regular doctor, your heart doctor, or your podiatrist, take your socks off so they can check your feet. While you’re there, clarify anything you need to about how to keep your blood glucose levels in check. High blood sugar can lead to nerve damage which eventually causes Peripheral neuropathy, which is altered function of nerves in your feet. This can be a very painful condition or a condition in which you have no feeling in your feet. Without feeling in feet you are more likely to not notice if you have a cut or damage to your feet.
Be a tender foot. Keep your feet away from the heat, like heating pads, hot water bottles, electric blankets, radiators and fireplaces. Your bath water temperature should be less than 92 degrees, so you don’t burn yourself. You can check water temperature with a thermometer, if you want to be extra careful.
Give your toes TLC and wear shoes that fit properly so they don’t rub, cramp or slide around on your feet.
Don’t delay treatment for foot problems. If you see any problems on your feet, like a blister or sore, wash it right away with soap and water. Use a mild antibiotic ointment, cover with a bandage and change the bandage at least once a day. Make an appointment to see your Podiatrist. The key is to identify problems early so they do not turn into major issues down the road.
If you see broken skin like athlete’s foot, cover it with antifungal cream. You can even use this cream to prevent a fungal infection.
If sores aren’t healing, don’t waste precious time treating it on your own, see your podiatrist right away. Don’t play doctor, either. That means trying to remove your own corns, calluses or plantar warts.
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American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society: “How to Care for Your Diabetic Feet”
Diabetesforecast.org: “13 Tips for Healthy Feet”
Diabetesforecast.org: “If the Shoe Fits”
Joslin Diabetes Center: “4 Tips for Foot Care When You Have Diabetes”
Joslin Diabetes Center: “How to Take Care of Your Feet”
Joslin Diabetes Center: “Foot Care: Tips for Keeping You on Your Toes”
American Podiatric Medical Association, Video: “Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease”