If you have diabetes, you are more prone to foot problems–ranging from relatively minor sores that don’t heal properly to severe conditions that may lead to amputation.
Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to nerve damage, circulation problems and infections, which contribute to serious foot problems. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), foot problems are one of the reasons why 1 in 5 people with diabetes seek hospital care.
Some of the foot and related problems that diabetic people are more prone to are:
- Burning, tingling or painful feet.
- Loss of sensitivity to heat or cold.
- Changes in the color or shape of the feet.
- Loss of hair on the legs.
- Thickening and yellowing of the toenails.
- Red spots, blisters, sores, ulcers, skin infections, infected corns or ingrown toenails.
In serious cases, foot problems can lead to amputation. About 73,000 non-traumatic lower-limb amputations were performed in adults age 20 or older with diabetes in 2010, according to the ADA.
However, you can take precautions to maintain healthy feet and prevent any serious problem.
Here are the top 10 foot care tips for diabetics.
1. Check Your Feet Every Day
No matter how healthy your feet look, it is important to closely inspect your feet daily, including the tops, sides, soles, heels and the area between the toes.
Even small sores or blisters can become big problems if an infection develops or they do not heal properly. Hence, check your feet every day for dry or cracked skin, red spots, cuts, swelling and blisters. For the bottoms of your feet, you can use a mirror or ask others for help.
Consult your doctor immediately if you discover any sores, redness, cuts, blisters or bruises.
2. Wash and Dry Properly
For proper foot care, regular washing and cleaning is a must. This will help keep your feet free of germs and other impurities, which can otherwise lead to infection.
Wash your feet every day in lukewarm water with mild soap. Avoid using hot water and harsh soaps, as they can damage your skin. Check the water temperature with your fingers or elbow, as diabetes may make it difficult to sense the water temperature with your feet.
Gently use a pumice stone to remove corns and calluses, after a shower or bath when your skin is soft.
After you are done washing your feet, dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes. Then, to keep your skin soft and smooth, rub a thin coat of skin lotion over the tops and bottoms of your feet, but not between your toes.
3. Cut Toenails Straight Across
Whether you have diabetes or not, always cut your toenails straight across.
Trim your toenails after washing your feet, when your nails are soft. Cut straight across to help prevent ingrown toenails. Use an emery board to smooth out the edges.
Be careful not to cut your toenails too short or into the corners. Do not touch the cuticles.
If you can’t see or reach your feet due to visual difficulty or nerve problems, ask a family memberor a podiatrist to cut your toenails for you.
4. Wear Proper Shoes and Socks
Those who are diabetic should wear shoes and socks at all times. But be sure to wear the right ones.
- Wear comfortable shoes that fit well. Shoes should have plenty of room, especially in the toe area.
- The lining of the inside of the shoes should be smooth, and there should be no objects inside.
- Avoid wearing shoes made out of plastic or other materials that do not allow your feet to breathe. Choose shoes made of leather, canvas or suede.
- Do not wear thong sandals, flip-flops, pointed-toe and open-toe shoes, or very high heels.
- Wear clean, dry socks or non-binding pantyhose for extra protection.
- Change your socks daily.
- Wear special shoes if your doctor recommends them.
5. Don’t Go Barefoot
Even though walking barefoot has many benefits, people who have diabetes should avoid it.
Never walk barefoot, especially in the garden or on the beach, to avoid cuts. In fact, when walking outside, you must try to wear shoes with good coverage.
Not just outside, you must avoid walking barefoot around the house too, as it can cause sores or injuries that can get infected.
6. Try Non-Impact Exercise
Being more active will help keep your blood sugar level under control. But when you have diabetes and foot problems, you must plan your exercise regimen carefully.
In fact, it is recommended to opt for exercises that have minimal impact on your feet as putting too much pressure on your feet can increase the risk of developing corns and calluses. Hence, exercises like, swimming, cycling, yoga and tai chi are some good options that you can try.
Aerobics programs that include bouncing, jumping and leaping are not the best activities for your feet, especially if you have neuropathy. It is always best to talk with your doctor before starting an exercise program.