The Importance of Foot Care
If you have diabetes, taking good care of your feet is as important as taking your medicine and checking your blood sugar regularly.
People with diabetes are more likely than other people to have foot problems. Over time, diabetes can make you lose feeling in your feet. This means that you may not notice if you get some minor injury like a cut or blister. However, this doesn’t happen all at once. It happens so slowly that you may not even realize that you have less feeling. Some people with diabetes may have a tingling feeling in their feet, like "pins and needles." If you have this feeling, you may not be able to sense if you have a cut or blister on your foot.
Diabetes also means less blood flow to your feet. When this happens, your feet don’t heal properly and minor injuries can turn into major problems. This is why it’s so important to take good care of your feet.
Daily foot care
There are a few things you should do daily to keep your feet healthy and problem-free. Take a good look at your feet each day. If you can’t see your feet well, try using a handheld mirror or have someone else look at them.
- Keep an eye out for cuts, blisters, or other sores. If you find a blister, don’t pop it. Instead, cover it with a bandage and switch to a different pair of shoes. If you find a cut or sore, apply antibiotic ointment and a bandage. Keep a close eye on it for signs of infection. If it doesn’t heal within a few days, see your doctor.
- Look for dry, cracked skin. Apply lotion if your skin is dry. If you find cracks, keep an eye on them and contact your doctor if you notice they are not healing or getting worse.
- Watch for places that are red or tender, or areas that are noticeably warm to the touch, which may be a sign of infection. If you notice areas like this, talk to your doctor.
- Look for ingrown toenails, corns or calluses. Do not try to care for these yourself. If you have any of these problems, your podiatrist can treat them.
- Keep an eye out for signs of fungus. Fungal infections are much more likely for people with diabetes. You can get a fungal infection in either your skin or your toenails. To avoid fungus, make sure to keep your feet dry. Wear shoes that “breathe,” wear cotton socks, and make sure to change them daily. Damp feet are the perfect breeding ground for fungus.
- Wash and moisturize your feet daily. Dry skin is much more prone to injury, and very dry skin can crack. This leaves your feet open to infection. The best time to moisturize your feet is after you bathe or shower, while your skin is well-hydrated. Apply lotion or cream to the top, sides, and bottoms of your feet but avoid the areas between your toes. Lotion between your toes creates a moist environment that invites fungus. It is recommended that you do NOT soak your feet. Soaking can also lead to dry, cracked skin due to removing natural oil from skin.
- Always wear supportive shoes. Supportive shoes, like athletic shoes, are a good choice for people with diabetes. Avoid wearing flip flops or sandals that don't support your feet.
Caring for your nails is also important. Overgrown nails can cause cuts and sores, and ingrown nails can become infected. Keeping your nails trimmed and cared for is part of regular foot care. You may want to have your podiatrist cut your nails, but if you cut your own:
- Cut them after you bathe so they’re soft
- Cut them straight across, then carefully file to round out the edges
- Do not cut your cuticles
- Be careful not to cut into the corners of your toes
- File gently with an emery board to minimize growth between trimmings
Make Foot Care a Regular Routine
You should also see your podiatrist at least once per year and have a thorough checkup of your feet, but daily maintenance is key to healthy feet. Inspecting your feet and caring for them each day makes it less likely that you’ll get a cut or sore. You also ensure that you’ll catch any small problem before it gets big.