Diabetes damages nerves and blood vessels, making the body less able to feel and heal. In other words, if a small sore goes unnoticed, it can turn into a large wound. The wound (called an ulcer) opens the door to serious infection. The infection can spread quickly through the foot, even into the bone. What began as a small problem can lead to amputation-one of the most feared complications of diabetes. But, it doesn't have to be that way. Good basic foot care can prevent serious problems. Get foot smart with the following foot care tips.
First Things First
Good diabetes control is the key to healthy feet. And good control comes with regular blood testing, eating right, taking medication, and staying active. Keep in mind that high blood sugar levels damage nerves and blood vessels. With damaged nerves, you can't feel a small stone in your shoe that is breaking the skin on your foot. You may also miss feelings of pressure from a pair of poorly fitting shoes that rub against your toes.
Your Daily “To-Do” List
Here are the nuts and bolts of foot care.
- Be a super-sleuth. Daily inspection-top, bottom, and between the toes-is very important. Look for cuts, blisters, red spots, and swelling.
- Keep It Clean. Every day wash your feet in warm, not hot, soapy water. Dry your feet well, especially between the toes. Trim the toenails once a week or whenever they need it. Use clippers to trim them along the natural shape of the nail, but leave a bit (about 1/16 inch) showing. Then smooth them with an emery board or nail file. If you don't see well or the nails are thick or yellowed, get the job done by a podiatrist-a doctor specializing in foot care.
- Be a Smooth Operator. Keep your skin soft and smooth. Dry skin cracks more easily, and the opening makes infection more likely. Rub a thin coat of skin lotion, cream, or petroleum jelly on the tops and bottoms of your feet. To avoid infection, don't use lotions or creams between your toes. Gently rub corns and calluses with a pumice stone. (A pumice stone is a kind of rock used to smooth the skin.) To avoid breaking the skin, rub in one direction only. Don't use a razor blade or liquid callus removers. If corns or calluses give you trouble, check with your podiatrist or the doctor who is treating your diabetes.
- Go undercover. Never walk barefoot. Always wear shoes and socks. Make sure that shoes fit well and protect your feet. Before putting shoes on, check to see that nothing is inside and that the lining is smooth. Don't let your feet get too hot or too cold.
- Keep things moving. Keep blood flowing to and from your feet. To aid circulation, rest your feet on a footstool when sitting. Two or three times a day, take a 5-minute break to wiggle your toes. Don't cross your legs for long periods of time or wear tight-fitting slacks or stockings that cut off circulation. And, don't smoke!
Your Lifetime Plan
Find ways to be more active. Call the doctor if a cut, sore, blister, or bruise on your foot does not begin to heal after a day. Because foot ulcers can be devilishly hard to treat, catching them early is important. Several treatments are available to improve healing. Remember, almost all foot amputations could have been avoided.
From National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases at www.niddk.nih.gov. FDA Approves Rx Comfort Socks for Sensitive Skin™ as Medical Device
Rx Comfort Socks uses DuPont TEFLON® fiber to reduce friction against the skin. It is well known in the medical community that friction is the main cause of abrasions and blisters. This new medical device may prevent foot blisters and skin irritations that can lead to debilitating skin infections among those suffering from diabetes, poor circulation and foot disorders. The American Diabetes Association estimates that there are more than 2.4 million foot ulcer cases per year in the U.S.