Foot Care for People with Diabetes

Why Does Diabetes Cause Foot Problems?

Over time, diabetes can damage nerves and blood vessels. When the nerves in the feet are damaged, you may not feel pain in your feet and you won’t know when you have hurt yourself. A small cut, puncture, or blister on your foot could get much worse before you notice it. Damage to blood vessels can keep enough blood from getting to your feet, which can keep a sore on your foot from healing normally.

Diabetes can dry out the skin on your feet so it cracks and peels. This can also cause sores, which can become infected.

Monitor your blood sugar regularly and keep your blood sugar levels within the target range. Follow your doctor’s advice about diet and exercise. If you smoke, try to quit. If you need help quitting smoking, ask your doctor to recommend ways to help you quit. These are the most important ways to prevent serious problems from diabetes, including sores on your feet and legs—which can lead to amputation—kidney damage, heart disease, stroke, and blindness.

How to Protect Your Feet

You may not be able to feel sores, cracks, cuts or blisters on your feet, check your feet every morning before you put on your shoes and again every night before you go to bed. Look for red spots where you shoes rub, cuts, blisters, cracks, and punctures, even small ones. Look between your toes. If you can’t see the bottoms of your feet use a mirror or ask someone else to check the bottom of your feet for you.

Keep your toenails trimmed. If you can clearly see and reach your toenails, trim them straight across with nail clippers (not scissors) and smooth the edges with a nail file or emery board. Don’t trim toenails in a round shape to prevent ingrown toenails. Be very careful not to cut the skin. Check your toenails for fungus infections. If you can’t care for your toenails yourself, see your doctor, a podiatrist, or a foot care specialist for toenail care.

Make sure your doctor or foot specialist checks your feet every 3-6 months, or more often if you have foot problems, such as thick or ingrown toenails or calluses. Don’t try to remove calluses or ingrown toenails yourself. When you visit your doctor for checkups, take off your shoes and socks while you wait in the exam room and remind your doctor to check your feet.

Wash your feet every day, using lukewarm water (85° to ’95° F or 29° to 35″ C), Don’t use hot water or you might bum your skin without knowing it. Test the bath water temperature with your wrist before you step in. After you wash your feet, dry them thoroughly between the toes, too. After taking a bath, use a moisturizing lotion on the top and bottom of your feet, but not between your toes. Keep the skin between your toes dry to prevent fungus from growing.

When you’re sitting prop your feet up if you can to help the blood flow. Don’t cross your legs at the knees or ankles; this can keep blood from getting to your feet. Pedal your feet up and do and wiggle your toes two to three times a day for 5 minutes to improve circulation. Never use hot water bottles, heating pads, or electric blankets to warm your feet. You could bum yourself without knowing it.

What About Shoes And Socks?

Always wear comfortable shoes that fit your feet well. Make sure your shoes have plenty of room for your toes. Don’t wear sandals, open-toed shoes or shoes with straps between the toes (flip flops). Never go barefoot. Wearing shoes that cover the skin on your feet will prevent cuts and punctures.

Wear clean cotton socks each day and make sure they aren’t too tight below your knee. If you wear stockings, they should be soft and not have thick seams, creases or holes that could rub the skin.

Check the inside of your shoes every day for tears or cracks in the linings and for pebbles or anything else that could rub your foot. Avoid walking on sand or gravel to prevent sand or small rocks from getting into your shoes. If your shoes get wet, change them as soon as you can.

What Should I Do If Get A Sore?

Call your doctor if you have any kind of foot injury. Your doctor can treat it so it doesn’t get worse. Don’t use home remedies or over-the-counter products on your feet and don’t try to treat sores by yourself. If you need a specialist, see a podiatrist.