Taking care of your feet is very important if you have diabetes. Diabetes can lead to a few problems that can hurt your feet. High blood glucose levels cause nerve damage (known as neuropathy) in your feet and legs.1 This can mean that you may not be able to feel heat or cold as well and that you can have a cut or sore on your foot without knowing it. Another problem that can happen when you have diabetes is poor blood flow to your feet and legs.1 This can make it more difficult for sores and infections to get better. If infection is left untreated, it can eventually lead to the need for amputation of toes, the foot, and even part of the leg.
As frightening as this may sound, there are some very simple steps you can take to protect your feet and your health. The American Diabetes Association offers the following recommendations for taking care of your feet2:
Take care of your diabetes. Work with your health care team to keep your blood glucose in your target range.
Check your feet every day. Look at your bare feet for red spots, cuts, swelling, and blisters. If you cannot see the bottoms of your feet, use a mirror or ask someone for help.
Be more active. Plan your physical activity program with your health team.
Ask your doctor about Medicare coverage for special shoes. Special shoes can be made to fit your feet well and help protect your feet from blisters and calluses that can become infected.
Wash your feet every day. Dry them carefully, especially between the toes.
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. Ask your doctor about what lotion or creams to use
If you can see and reach your toenails, trim them when needed. Trim your toenails straight across and file the edges with an emery board or nail file. If you are unable to trim your toenails yourself, ask for help from you doctor.
Wear shoes and socks at all times. Never walk barefoot. Wear comfortable shoes that fit well and protect your feet. Check inside your shoes before wearing them. Make sure the lining is smooth and there are no objects inside.
Protect your feet from hot and cold. Wear shoes at the beach or on hot pavement. Don’t put your feet into hot water. Test water before putting your feet in it just as you would before bathing a baby. Never use hot water bottles, heating pads, or electric blankets. You can burn your feet without realizing it.
Keep the blood flowing to your feet. Put your feet up when sitting. Wiggle your toes and move your ankles up and down for 5 minutes, two (2) or three (3) times a day. Don’t cross your legs for long periods of time. Don’t smoke.
Get started now! Begin taking good care of your feet today. Set a time every day to check your feet.
You should tell your doctor right away about any foot problems that you have and have your doctor examine your feet at each diabetes checkup. To help make sure that your doctor checks your feet, remove your shoes and socks before your doctor enters the exam room1.
By: April Agne, MPH and Rebecca Honaker, BA (September 2013)