Foot problems are a common complication in people with diabetes. In order to lower your risk of developing foot problems you need to examine your feet regularly.
Diabetes that is not carefully managed can lead to foot complications like:
- foot ulcer
- nerve damage or “diabetic neuropathy.”
- foot deformities
- Lack of poor circulation
More serious complications include deep skin and bone infections. Gangrene (decay and death of tissue) is a very serious complication; widespread gangrene may require amputation. Approximately 5 percent of people with diabetes eventually require amputation of a toe or foot. However, this can be prevented in most situations by managing blood sugar levels and committing to daily foot care.
Diabetes & Foot Care Tip
Follow these tips to help prevent injury and reduce the risk of developing foot problems that can occur when you’re living with diabetes and neuropathy.
- Inspect your feet daily. Check for cuts, blisters, redness, swelling, or nail problems. Use a magnifying hand mirror to look at the bottom of your feet. Call your doctor if you notice anything.
- Bathe feet in lukewarm, never hot, water. Keep your feet clean by washing them daily. Use only lukewarm water—the temperature you would use on a newborn baby.
- Be gentle when bathing your feet. Wash them using a soft washcloth or sponge. Dry by blotting or patting and carefully dry between the toes.
- Moisturize your feet but not between your toes. Use a moisturizer daily to keep dry skin from itching or cracking. But don’t moisturize between the toes—that could encourage a fungal infection.
- Cut nails carefully. Cut them straight across and file the edges. Don’t cut nails too short, as this could lead to ingrown toenails. If you have concerns about your nails, consult your doctor.
- Never treat corns or calluses yourself. No “bathroom surgery” or medicated pads. Visit your doctor for appropriate treatment.
- Wear clean, dry socks. Change them daily. Consider socks made specifically for patients living with diabetes. These socks have extra cushioning, do not have elastic tops, are higher than the ankle, and are made from fibers that wick moisture away from the skin. If your feet get cold at night, wear socks. Never use a heating pad or a hot water bottle.
- Shake out your shoes and feel the inside before wearing them. Remember, your feet may not be able to feel a pebble or other foreign object, so always inspect your shoes before putting them on. If your shoes aren’t comfortable, ask your doctor about special therapeutic shoes or inserts that may be right for you.
- Keep your feet warm and dry. Don’t let your feet get wet in snow or rain. Wear warm socks and shoes in winter.
- Consider using an antiperspirant on the soles of your feet. This is helpful if you have excessive sweating of the feet.
- Never walk barefoot. Not even at home! Always wear shoes or slippers. You could step on something and get a scratch or cut.
- Keep your blood sugar levels under control.
- Do not smoke. Smoking restricts blood flow in your feet.
- Get periodic foot exams. Seeing your foot and ankle surgeon on a regular basis can help prevent foot complications of diabetes.