Diabetes is a health condition that prevents the proper breakdown of glucose inside the body. When excess glucose accumulates in the blood, it can cause damage to blood vessels and nerves. This increases a person’s risk for nerve damage in the hands, arms, legs, and feet—a condition known as peripheral neuropathy. Proper diabetic foot care can ease the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy and prevent more serious disorders from developing.
Diabetes and Foot Health
Diabetes can affect foot health in many ways. It’s estimated that about 15% of diabetes patients develop some type of foot problem. Some of the potential foot-health issues include:
- Vascular disease
- Foot ulcers
- Athlete’s foot
- Plantar warts
- Ingrown toenails
- Fungal infections
The warning signs of foot problems aren’t always obvious. Up to half of the people with diabetic peripheral neuropathy are asymptomatic. They don’t realize they have neuropathy until a problem appears.
Diabetic Foot Care Tips
If you have high blood sugar, taking care of your feet is an important part of your overall diabetic care. Mild nerve damage can dull warning sensations like heat and pain. With less feeling to alert you to a problem, a simple cut or blister can quickly lead to a serious infection.
Nerve damage can also change the shape of your toes and feet. Shoes that were once comfortable may become too tight or rub blisters on heels and toes.
Poor circulation caused by diabetes is another concern. Proper blood flow is needed to heal wounds to the feet and fight off infection.
All of these issues can result in foot ulcers and gangrene, which may lead to amputation of the toes, foot, or even the leg if not treated.
4 Steps to Good Diabetic Foot Care
Keeping your feet clean is a good habit for everyone, but even more so for people with diabetes. Daily washing gives you an opportunity to inspect your feet carefully and identify any minor issues before they become major problems.
Steps to proper foot hygiene include:
- Wash feet with warm (not hot) water and soap
- Check feet closely for cuts, blisters, sores, redness, or corns
- Dry feet thoroughly
- Apply moisturizer, but avoid placing moisturizer between toes
Putting good hygiene practices in place will help you avoid the problems that can lead to amputation. Follow the remaining steps to ensure your feet stay happy and healthy.
1. Trim Toenails with Care
People with diabetes need to be extra careful about keeping their toenails trimmed. Long, hard toenails can press into neighboring toes, causing small cuts and open sores. If your toenails are thick and difficult to trim, try soaking your feet in warm water first, or ask your doctor’s office if they can recommend a pedicurist for diabetic feet.
Cut nails straight across, not downward at the sides. Cutting off the edges can lead to ingrown toenails. Use an emery board to smooth out any sharp edges.
2. Choose the Right Footwear
To protect against injury, avoid going barefoot, even inside your home. Slip on a pair of grip-bottom socks or sturdy slippers whenever you’re home.
Always wear socks with shoes. Socks wick away excess moisture to help keep feet dry and prevent blisters. Choose shoes that fit properly and do not pinch toes or rub against your feet. Many people with diabetes need therapeutic inserts or special shoes due to the changes in their feet. Investing in suitable footwear is an investment in your overall health. If your feet are uncomfortable, it will inhibit your ability to exercise and take care of yourself in other ways.
3. Stay Active
You already know the benefits of exercise for managing diabetes. One reason staying active is so important is because movement supports good circulation. It’s not necessary to engage in a strenuous workout to enjoy the benefits. A brisk daily walk will stimulate blood flow in your feet and legs and help maintain foot health.
Walk or exercise in comfortable, sturdy shoes. If you are currently treating an open foot sore, your podiatrist may recommend taking a break from daily walks until the wound is healed. Alternative activities like chair yoga or upper-body exercises may be recommended instead.
4. Follow Medical Advice
The team at Horizon Foot & Ankle Institute cares about your foot health. Approximately 15% of all diabetes patients develop an open sore, diabetic foot ulcer, or some type of wound on the bottom of the foot. We understand that even with proper care, people with diabetes are still at a higher risk for podiatry issues.
Our team members have the experience to care for your feet, ankles, and lower legs no matter what is causing the problem. We offer comprehensive services, including conservative and surgical treatments and minimally invasive and non-invasive procedures.
Contact us today to learn more about our services or to schedule an appointment. We look forward to helping you get back on your feet and enjoy life.