Diabetes is associated with nerve damage and reduced blood flow to your feet, hence increased the risk of developing foot problems. According to the American Diabetes Association, 1 in every 5 diabetic patients seeking care has foot problems. Therefore, people with diabetes need to take good care of their feet to prevent foot problems.
Without proper foot care, diabetics can have their feet or leg amputated. Doctors do feet check up on diabetic patients every year to ensure they don’t develop foot problems. Proper foot care can help prevent critical problems linked to diabetes.
13 Expert Tips for Diabetic Foot Care
1. Check Your Feet Daily & between Your Toes
Assess your feet daily from top to bottom, and in between your toes. Look out for cracks, dryness, cuts, blisters, sores, and scratches on your skin. Check for increased warmth, redness, corns, ingrown toenails, calluses and tenderness to touch, among other skin conditions. Don’t ‘pop or prick’ sores or blisters resulting from wearing shoes.
Wrap a bandage over the blisters or sore and put on a different pair of shoes. If you’re unable to do an assessment personally, get someone else close to you to do it daily.
2. Clean & Dry Your Feet Regularly
Wash your feet daily with warm water and mild soap. Use a clean and soft towel to pat your wet feet dry, but don’t rub.
3. Moisturize Dry Skin, But Not between Your Toes
After your feet are totally dry, apply petroleum jelly or lotion on the skin to moisturize it and prevent cracking. Make sure the spaces between your toes stay dry; don’t apply lotion on these areas of your feet.
4. Ask Your Doctor for Safe Ways to Smooth Corns & Calluses
Diabetics should treat minor foot problems right away. Infections and injuries such as cuts, sores, burns, and bumps should be reported as soon as they occur. Follow first aid guidelines and your doctor’s advice to the letter. Calluses, corns and other foot problems must never be self-treated.
Get your calluses and corns treated by a podiatrist or your doctor. Ask your doctor how to safely smooth your corns and calluses, without worsening your condition. After bathing, if permitted by your doctor, use a pumice stone to smooth calluses and corns. However, avoid medicated pads or trying to cut the hard swellings on your toes.
5. Trim Your Toenails Regularly with Nail Clippers
Bathe before trimming your toenails to soften them. Cut your nails horizontally, in a straight line from one end to the other; this ensures you don’t cut into the corners of your toenails, hence preventing cuts into your skin. With that regard, your cuticles must never be removed.
Use a nail file to smooth the tips of your toenails after cutting them. If you’re not sure about the right way to cut your toenails, visit a podiatrist to help you trim them. Trim your nails to help prevent ingrown nails.
6. Wear Comfortable, Well-Fitted Shoes with Socks
Whether you’re working out or walking, always wear comfortable shoes that fit you well with socks. Avoid high-heeled shoes or those with pointed toes. Sandals or open-toed shoes leave your heels and toes unprotected and thus vulnerable to infections and injuries.
Whenever you buy new shoes, try them on with the kind of socks you often wear. Make sure you only wear your new pair of shoes for a few minutes; never go for up to an hour in new footwear. It’s important for your shoes to fit properly. However, if you have nerve damage or neuropathy, you might not sense whether your shoes fit properly or not.
Stand straight on a piece of paper to trace your feet size; you’ll notice that your feet changes in shape if you’re standing. Let someone do this for you. The first time, stand on the paper barefoot. Wear shoes when making a trace in the second round and compare the two tracings to help you determine whether your footwear fits properly or not.
The second tracing made while wearing shoes should be at least half-an-inch wider than the first tracing and longer than your longest toe. As a person with diabetes, make sure your shoes are soft on the inside, have a stiff outer sole and seamless leather uppers on the inside.
The shoes must be closed, especially at the toes and have short heels. Shoes made from canvas, leather or suede, are highly breathable to ensure your feet get fresh air. Laced shoes provide better support than loafers while those with cushioned soles absorb pressure for optimal support of your feet.
You might have to wear special types of shoes if recommended by your doctor. It’s best to buy shoes when your feet are the largest, at the end of the day.
7. Wear Clean, Lightly Padded Socks
Wear soft, lightly padded socks made from natural fibers such as wool and cotton or a blend of the two. Make sure the socks fit loosely and are always clean when you wear them. Change your socks on a daily basis. Make sure your socks don’t have holes on them to ensure your feet are protected.
Wear warm, dry socks whenever it’s cold and when going to bed. Socks with extra padding absorb moisture from your feet, keeping them dry at all times.
8. You Should Never Walk Barefoot
Protect your feet from harsh weather conditions such as moisture and cold, as well as injuries. Go for hard-soled shoes to protect your feet from injuries and never walk barefoot. Avoid walking barefoot on sandy beaches and hot pavements.
9. Protect Your Feet from Heat Sources
Use your elbow to check water temperature, but not your foot; do this when testing the hotness of water you want to use to wash your feet. Avoid crossing your legs and don’t use heating pads, hot water bottles, electric blankets and other heat sources on your feet.
10. Improve Blood Flow & Circulation to Your Feet
Crossing your legs can impede blood flow to various parts of your body, hence must be avoided. Smoking can worsen your foot and leg problems, not to mention impeding blood circulation. Stop smoking to enable your blood to flow to various parts of your body, including feet.
Tightly fitting shoes don’t just cause ulcers, corns and calluses and nail problems, but also hamper proper blood circulation in your feet. Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes for optimal blood flow and circulation.
11. Be More Physically Active
Eating healthy foods with low cholesterol and unhealthy fats is also good for diabetics. Live an active lifestyle and engage in physical activities to improve blood flow, atop other health benefits of being physically active. Take walks in the evenings to help increase your metabolic and heart rates, hence increased blood flow.
Physical activity also helps ensure your blood has less cholesterol and blood sugars to prevent neuropathy or nerve damage.
12. Visit Your Podiatrist Regularly for an Examination
Regularly visit your podiatrist for a checkup; do this at least once a year. If you notice any weird changes on your skin such as redness and swellings, see your doctor immediately. It’s time to see your doctor if you have pain, burning or tingling feeling, cracks or sores, increased warmth, redness or even swellings.
Even when you’re feeling alright, your doctor can inspect your legs for athlete’s foot, bunions, ingrown toenails, hammer toes, wounds, etc.
13. Manage Your Blood Glucose Levels to Improve Your Foot Problems
Keep your blood sugar levels under control to prevent peripheral neuropathy or nerve damage that result in you losing your sense of feeling in your feet. As a result, you’ll never know whether you get injuries or sores, or not.
Foot care and blood sugar control can help prevent your nerve damage from deteriorating. Moreover, it can even reverse your neuropathy condition. Controlling your blood cholesterol levels and pressure can also help reduce your risk of nerve damage.
Why is it Important to Take Care of Your Feet?
Diabetes can lead to foot problems due to minor injuries such as cuts. It can cause neuropathy or nerve damage, leaving you feeling numb and thus can’t feel injuries or infections. Reduced blood flow to the feet reduces a diabetic’s ability to heal from injuries, infections or wounds.
Unnoticed injuries can lead to infections, sores, blisters or wounds that don’t heal. Therefore, diabetics risk leg amputations. This explains the importance of foot care in patients with diabetes.
Why is it bad for Diabetics to Soak their Feet?
Soaking your feet leaves it moist and thus vulnerable to infections, especially the areas between your toes. Although you should wash your feet daily, avoid soaking them. Pat them dry without rubbing them then moisturize to prevent your skin from cracking. However, areas in between your toes should always be dry.
With proper foot care, you can prevent nerve damage and related foot problems. As a diabetic, you need to wash your feet daily and keep them dry yet moisturized. Wear comfortable shoes and socks whenever you’re on your feet. Visit your doctor or podiatrist regularly to ensure your feet are in top shape and safe from injuries.
emedicinehealth, Diabetic Foot Care
NHS, How to look after your feet if you have diabetes