Diabetic foot care

If you are diabetic, care for your feet.

Diabetes exists in two forms: type 1 and type 2. Regardless of which type you have, you are more likely to have foot problems than people who do not have diabetes. If your foot problems are severe enough, you may be forced to have your foot, and possibly part of your leg, amputated. Understanding some of the common foot problems before they occur and following some common sense advice can help prevent foot injury, infection, and amputation. If you are concerned about a foot problem, see a podiatrist or physician who regularly treats diabetic patients.

Check your feet often. Think of checking your feet as a daily activity, in the same way you do bathing. In fact, after your morning shower is a good time to take a careful look at your feet. Look at the toenails, sides, heels, and soles of your feet. You may need a mirror and an additional light to get a close enough look. If you cannot inspect your feet thoroughly enough because of the awkward positions required or because you have limited vision, ask a family member or someone else to help you.

What should I watch for?

Look to see that your toenails are pink and fully attached. If they are white or crumbling or appear loose, contact your doctor. If your foot has any areas that are cut, reddened, swollen, or callused, you should see your doctor. Pain, swelling, warmth, and redness (all of which are signs of infection) should always be reported.

Do I need to avoid any foot products?

Never treat corns or calluses with products containing salicyclic acid (liquids, pads or patches), which can burn the feet. Always avoid products designed to reduce the size of calluses, such as pumice stones, files, and razors. These can cause severe damage to your feet. To prevent serious, perhaps disabling burns, avoid putting any heat product, such as a heating pad or hot water bottle, on your feet.

How should I care for my toenails?

Cut your nails straight across and file the tops so that they are smooth. Do not cut your nails with an angle down into the corners, as they might become ingrown and start an infection. If you cannot reach your feet, a podiatrist can cut your toenails for you. In addition, if you have an ingrown toenail, see a podiatrist or physician, since there is no self-care product to treat it.

How should I bathe my feet?

Wash your feet gently each day with warm water. When you bathe, test the water temperature with your elbow before putting your feet in. If you get into a bathtub feet first without testing the water, you may burn your feet badly, since they often do not have full feeling in them. When you are done, dry your feet completely, especially between the toes, to prevent a fungal inflection. However, do not use a heated-air blow dryer.

Other advice

Break in new shoes by wearing them for short periods each day. Before putting on your shoes, check to make sure they do not have stones or other objects in them that can irritate your feet. Always wear socks with your shoes to help prevent blisters. Never walk barefoot, and always wear hard-soled shoes to protect your feet.

It is also important to moisturize your feet since nerve damage may prevent your body from properly supplying oil to them. You should rub a thin layer of unscented lotion or petroleum jelly on the tops and bottoms of your feet, avoiding the areas between the toes. Also, soaking your feet may cause them to dry out.

Finally, if your feet have become misshapen or deformed, you should speak to your podiatrist about special shoes that will help prevent further injury to them.