If you are a diabetic, you need to “stay on your toes” when it comes to foot care. Diabetes can cause both nerve damage and hardening of the blood vessels in your feet. Lack of feeling in your feet makes it difficult to tell if you have a sore or blister. If left untreated, small sores may turn into serious infections that can spread to the entire leg or even the whole body. But by following some tips on how to care for your feet, you may be able to avoid serious complications.
Preventing foot problems begins with controlling diabetes by managing your blood sugar levels. Follow your doctor’s recommendations for diet, exercise and medicine, and be proactive in taking care of your feet. Here are a few tips:
- Watch for signs of foot problems. Check your feet every day for blisters, sores or cuts, in-grown toenails, thickening of the toenails, and fungus infections between the toes. If you have difficulty seeing the bottom of your feet, use a plastic mirror or ask a caregiver for help.
- Wash your feet every day. Pat your feet dry after washing gently in warm water. Do not soak your feet; that can dry out your skin. Be sure to dry between your toes and keep the skin dry with cornstarch or talcum powder.
- Keep skin smooth and soft. Rub lotion, cream or petroleum jelly on the tops and bottoms of your feet (but not between the toes).
- Trim your toenails regularly. Trim toenails straight across. Avoid cutting into the corners of the toenails. Smooth with an emery board or nail file.
- Do not go barefoot. Always wear socks and shoes to prevent potential foot injuries.
- Wear comfortable socks and shoes. Avoid open-toe, open-heel, pointy-toed and high heel shoes, as well as sandals with thongs between the toes. Always wear socks or stockings with shoes.
- Do not treat calluses, corns, or bunions before checking with your doctor. Razor blades, corn plasters, and liquid corn or callus removers can damage your skin.
- Protect your feet from extreme temperatures. Wear shoes on hot surfaces and apply sunscreen to the tops of your feet. Wear socks at night if your feet get cold. Check your feet to avoid frostbite in cold weather.
- Keep the blood flowing to your feet. When possible, prop your feet up when sitting. Exercise, such as walking, can improve circulation in your feet. Be sure to wear appropriate, comfortable shoes.
- Have a foot check-up at least once a year. Ask your doctor to check for a sense of feeling and pulse in your feet, and any signs of foot problems.
By following a good foot hygiene schedule and seeing your doctor for regular foot screenings, you can help safeguard your feet. If you do notice any skin color changes, swelling, ingrown or fungal toenails, sores that are slow to heal, or bleeding corns or calluses, check with your doctor. More than half of all diabetes-related amputations could be prevented with regular check-ups and patient education.
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