Diabetes Foot Care
If you have diabetes, nerve damage and infections can lead to serious foot problems. However, there are steps you can take to maintain healthy ...
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Why is foot care important?
If you have diabetes, nerve damage, circulation problems,
and infections can lead to serious foot problems. However, you can take
precautions to maintain healthy feet.
Managing your diabetes and maintaining a healthy lifestyle
helps keep your feet healthy. This should include:
- regular medical exams, including foot checks at
every visit and checking your ABCs (A1c, blood pressure, and cholesterol)
- monitoring your blood sugar daily
- regular exercise
- eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and
You can help prevent serious foot problems by following a
good foot care regimen.
Daily foot care
Here are a few foot care habits you can adopt and try to do
1. Inspect your feet
Check your feet and toes, inspecting the tops, sides, soles,
heels, and the area in between the toes. If you’re physically unable to inspect
your own feet, use a mirror or ask someone to help. Contact your doctor
immediately if you discover any sores, redness, cuts, blisters, or bruises.
2. Wash your feet
Wash your feet every day in warm water with mild soap. Hot
water and harsh soaps can damage your skin. Check the water temperature with
your fingers or elbow before putting your feet in. Your diabetes may make it
difficult to sense water temperature with your feet.
3. Dry your feet
Pat your feet to dry them and make sure to dry well. Infections
tend to develop in moist areas, so make sure you dry the area between your toes
4. Moisturize dry skin
If the skin on your feet feels rough or dry, use lotion or
oil. Do not use lotion between your toes.
Healthy foot habits
Following good foot care habits will go a long way toward
keeping your feet healthy. Here are a few helpful tips.
- Antiseptic solutions can burn your skin. Never
use them on your feet without your doctor’s approval.
- Never use a heating pad, hot water bottle, or
electric blanket on your feet.
- Avoid walking barefoot. Most people know to
avoid hot pavement or sandy beaches, but even walking barefoot around the house
can cause sores or injuries that can get infected.
- Protect your feet from heat and cold.
- Never attempt to remove corns, calluses, warts,
or other foot lesions yourself. Don’t use chemical wart removers, razor blades,
corn plasters, or liquid corn or callus removers. See your doctor or
- Don’t sit with your legs crossed or stand in one
position for long periods of time.
It’s possible for people with diabetes to perform routine
toenail care. But visual difficulty, nerve problems, or circulatory changes in
the legs or feet can make this unsafe.
If you’re able to safely trim your toenails yourself, doing
so properly will help you avoid getting an ulcer or foot sore. Make sure to consult
with your healthcare provider to see if it’s safe for you to perform routine
toenail care. Ask them to show you the correct way.
Here are a few tips for proper toenail care:
- Trim your toenails after washing your feet, when
your nails are soft.
- Cut straight across rather than in a curved fashion
to help prevent ingrown toenails.
- Don’t cut into the corners. Use an emery board
to smooth the edges.
- Be careful not to cut toenails too short.
- Have your toenails trimmed by a foot doctor or
another healthcare provider if you can’t see well, or if your nails are thick
Footwear: Shoes and socks
If you have neuropathy, or nerve damage that has affected
foot sensitivity, you may overlook cuts or bumps. You can help protect your
feet by wearing shoes at all times.
- Choose comfortable, well-fitting shoes with
plenty of room, especially in the toe box. Never buy tight shoes hoping they
- Do not wear shoes made out of plastic or other
materials that do not breathe. Choose leather, canvas, or suede.
- Avoid thong sandals, flip-flops, pointed-toe and
open-toe shoes, and very high heels.
- Wear shoes that can be adjusted with laces,
buckles, or Velcro.
- Inspect the inside of your shoes every day for
tears or bumps that may cause pressure or irritation.
- If you have nerve damage, give your feet a break
or change shoes after five hours to change the pressure points on different
areas of your feet.
- If you experience repeated problems with your
feet, ask your doctor if special shoes would help.
- Socks can provide an extra layer of soft
protection between your foot and your shoe.
- Wear clean, dry socks, or non-binding pantyhose.
Avoid socks or hosiery with seams that can cause additional pressure points or
are too tight on the leg.
- Wear socks to bed if your feet are cold.
Signs and symptoms of foot problems
It’s important to recognize early warning signs of foot
problems, such as:
- burning, tingling, or painful feet
- loss of sensation to heat, cold, or touch
- changes to the color or shape of your feet
- loss of hair on the toes, feet, and lower legs
- thickening and yellowing of the toenails
- onset of red spots, blisters, sores, ulcers,
infected corns, or ingrown toenails
If you have any of these symptoms, call your doctor
immediately. Delay may result in serious health complications.
Following the tips above can help you to avoid foot
problems. As stated above, high blood sugar levels over time can cause nerve
damage and circulation problems. These problems can cause or contribute to foot
problems. Left unnoticed or untreated, sores, ingrown toenails, and other
problems can lead to infection. Poor circulation makes healing an
infection difficult. So it’s best to avoid them if possible.
Infections that do not heal can cause skin and tissue to die
and turn black. This is called gangrene. Treatment can involve surgery to amputate
a toe, foot, or part of a leg.
Visiting the doctor
A doctor should examine your feet at every visit and do a
thorough foot exam once a year. If you have a history of foot problems, you
should be checked more often. Your health care provider should also give you
information on foot care and answer all your questions. Report any corns,
calluses, sores, cuts, bruises, infections, or foot pain.
If necessary, your doctor can recommend a podiatrist who
specializes in diabetic foot care or give you information about special shoes
that may help.
Remember: Diabetes-related foot problems can worsen
very quickly and are difficult to treat, so it’s important to seek prompt
Medically Reviewed by:
Jul 25, 2012
Published By: Healthline Networks, Inc.