Diabetic Footcare Issues
Last updated 8/25/2006 at Noon
People with diabetes are more susceptible to foot problems because the disease damages nerves and reduces blood flow to the feet. Even the most ordinary of foot issues can lead to serious problems -- in extreme cases -- foot or leg amputation.
If you are a diabetic, it’s important to examine the tops and bottoms of your feet each day for a number of foot ailments.
Dry skin: The nerves that control the oil and moisture in the foot don’t work in diabetics, making the skin of the foot susceptible to peeling and cracking. Wash feet each day in lukewarm water and mild soap (test water temperature with your elbow, not your foot). Pat feet dry and cover tops and bottoms with a thick coat of plain petroleum jelly or an unscented cream or lotion. Do not put oils or creams between the toes or soak the feet for a long period of time: All the extra moisture can dry the skin.
Corns and calluses: Corns and calluses -- a buildup of hard skin -- occur more often on the feet of those with diabetes. If not trimmed, they can get too thick and turn into open sores (known as foot ulcers). Don’t try to cut them yourself, or treat with over-the-counter medicines which can burn the skin. Instead, have them cut by your doctor. To control calluses, use a pumice stone daily.
Shoes and socks: Never walk barefoot -- even at the beach or around your home. Bare feet can make your feet susceptible to cuts, falls and infections. Always wear thick and soft socks and avoid pantyhose or legwear which can constrict circulation to the feet and legs. Don’t wear open-toed sandals, high heels or shoes with pointed toes. Shoes should be comfortable and fit well. (They shouldn’t require time to break in, though you should wear them for short periods of time at first). The inner lining of the shoe should be smooth and have no rough areas. If needed, your insurance may cover special shoes.
Poor circulation: The blood vessels in the foot and leg narrow and harden in diabetics. Poor blood flow can make it harder for your foot to fight infection and heal. To control blood flow, don’t smoke, and control your blood pressure and cholesterol. If your feet get cold, put on warm socks. Promote leg and foot circulation by wiggling your toes, moving your ankles up and down and not crossing your legs.
Nail problems: Nails may become infected with fungus, getting thick, brittle and possibly crumbly. Fungal nail infections may be treated with topical medication or oral antibiotics. You also want to avoid ingrown toenails, where the edges of the nail grow into the skin. Prevent ingrown toenails by trimming them straight across and filing with an emery board once a week. If you can’t reach your toes, have someone else do it for you or ask your doctor to help you.
Athlete’s foot: This fungal disease causes itching, redness and cracking. Problems start when germs enter through the skin’s cracks and cause an infection. Your doctor can treat it with a pill or cream.
Proper footcare can help you prevent severe foot ailments from occurring.