Smart Strategies for Diabetic Foot Care
Along with monitoring blood sugar levels, one of the most important things diabetics can do is care for their feet. Diabetes can lead to a loss of feeling in your feet; as a result, you could be injured (a cut, a blister) and not know it. And because diabetes can also lower the blood flow to your feet, it can cause foot problems. In the most serious cases, feet or toes may even have to be amputated because they have developed serious ulcers that don’t heal.
But there are ways you can manage your foot care. Here, the experts at the National Diabetes Education Program, a division of the National Institutes of Health, share some strategies:
Check your feet daily.
Look for anything out of the ordinary, the NDEP experts say: cuts, sores, swelling, red spots, or toenails that are infected. You should do this in the evening, the experts say, after you take off your shoes. If you find it hard to bend down, the NDEP experts suggest using a mirror or asking for help from a relative, friend or caregiver.
Wash your feet daily.
Use warm, not hot water; don’t soak feet because that will dry out your skin. Test the water with your hand or elbow beforehand to make sure it’s not too hot. To prevent infection, the NDEP experts say, use talcum powder or cornstarch between your toes.
Use a thin layer of lotion, cream or petroleum jelly on both the tops and bottoms of feet. But don’t use anything between your toes, because that could lead to infection.
Be careful with corns and calluses.
If you have them, ask your doctor about the best way to care for them. If your physician says it’s OK, you can use a pumice stone after bathing to smooth them. Don’t cut them or use razor blades, liquid corn and callus removers, or even corn plasters. All could cause an infection.
Trim toenails regularly.
Do this after washing and drying feet. Trim straight across and smooth corners with an emery board. That prevents the nail from digging into skin and possibly causing an infection.
The NDEP says you should have a foot doctor trim your toenails if you can’t see or feel your feet; can’t reach them; your toenails are thick, yellow or have curved and are growing into the skin.
Wear shoes and socks at all times.
Don’t walk barefoot, the NDEP experts say, whether you’re inside or outdoors. Pick shoes that fit well and lightly padded socks. Make sure you wear socks, stockings, or nylons with your shoes to keep from getting blisters and sores.
Protect your feet from hot and cold.
Put sunscreen on the tops of your feet. When indoors, don’t put hot water bottles or heating pads on your feet. Instead, wear socks at night if your feet are cold. In the winter, wear lined boots to keep your feet warm when you’re outdoors.
Keep the blood flowing to your feet.
When you’re sitting, the NDEP experts say, put your feet up. You should also wiggle your toes for five minutes, two or three times daily, to help blood flow to your feet and legs. Don’t wear tight socks or anything elastic on your legs.
The NDEP experts say it can reduce circulation to your feet. If you need to quit, call 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669), or visit www.smokefree.gov.
Be more active.
Physical activity helps improve the flow of blood to your feet. The NDEP recommends asking your health care team for the safest ways for you to be active. Some possibilities include walking, swimming or bike riding. If you get the OK, wear supportive athletic shoes and start slowly.
For more information on managing diabetes, visit the National Diabetes Education Program here.