Foot Care for Adults with Diabetes: What, Why and How
Everybody wants healthy feet and legs. But this can be a worry for people with diabetes. There are very few people who aren't aware of the potential for serious problems. But did you know that virtually all amputations due to diabetes can be prevented? Simple things dramatically reduce the number of serious foot problems experienced by people with diabetes.
This page describes what you can do to protect your precious feet and legs:
- What is involved
- Why it's done
- How to make it a part of your routine
Talk to your health care team about protecting your feet. Together, you can make sure that you'll be "hanging ten" for the rest of your days!
Note: The following guidelines apply mainly to adults and teens who have diabetes. They do not necessarily apply to young children or children who have had diabetes less than five years.
What To Do Why It's Done Overall Keep your blood sugars and glycohemoglobin near the normal range. Blood sugar control helps speed healing, prevent infection and stop further damage to nerves and blood vessels. Don't smoke. Smoking narrows blood vessels which can slow healing. Wear closed shoes that cover the toes are best. Make sure they fit well. Wearing good shoes to protect the feet can prevent many small injuries that might become infected. They MUST fit well. Poorly fitting shoes are a major cause of injury in people who cannot feel their feet well. Don't go barefoot if you have any loss of feeling in your feet. It's too easy to cause an injury without knowing it. Don't cross your legs when sitting for extended periods. Keeping feet flat on the floor promotes better circulation. Be thoughtful about getting and using new shoes. Shop for shoes late in the day, when your feet are at their largest size. Look for deep toe boxes and sufficient width. Break new shoes in slowly. Shoes should protect your feet not injure them. Correct fit is very important. Wear cotton socks without seams. Change socks often if you have sweaty feet. Avoid knee highs and tight elastic. Cotton socks absorb moisture, keeping feet dry. Tight spots can block blood flow. Daily Foot Checks Wash feet with soap and warm (not hot) water. Don't soak them. Dry them carefully, especially between toes and around nails. Dirty or damp feet are more likely to develop fungus infections, like athlete's foot. Soaking removes natural oils which can lead to dryness and cracking. Check you feet carefully. Use a mirror to see the bottom if necessary. Look for any red spots, cracks, cuts or sores. Check for hot spots or drainage. Any break in the skin is a route for infection to enter. Find them early and get them treated to avoid infection. Cut toenails straight across and not too short. Have a podiatrist do this if you can't see well, aren't flexible enough, or have loss of feeling in your feet. Prevent ingrown toenails. Avoid cutting the foot or nicking the skin. If skin is dry, apply lotion to the tops and bottoms of feet. Do NOT put lotion between toes. Powder between toes is fine. To keep the skin from cracking while preventing fungus growth between toes. Avoid corn and callous removers. See a podiatrist to manage corns and calluses. Check shoe fit to prevent them. These products contain acids that can burn and injure the skin. Check inside shoes every time you put them on. Use your hands. Feel for loose objects, nails, seams and other irregularities. Small problems inside the shoe can cause big injuries. Your whole weight bears down on these things. This is particularly important if you can't feel your feet. Working with Your Team Take off your shoes and socks at every medical visit. This reminds your provider to check you feet. Even though you check your feet every day, your doctor should still check them at each visit. Make sure your feet get checked for loss of feeling every year. Your doctor, nurse or podiatrist can do this very simply and painlessly with a monofilament. Nerve damage that causes a reduction in the ability to feel touch or pain is very dangerous. When your nerves cease to work as they should, you need to use your eyes and hands to check your feet every day in order to protect them. If you find ANY problem when checking your feet, contact your team IMMEDIATELY. Your provider should see any sore (ulcer), cut, heat, discoloration or discharge within 24 hours so that treatment can be started immediately. Treatment for infection is much more effective when it's started early. Delay may allow infection to become very resistant to treatment.
For More Information
Caution: Some of these links contain graphic images of foot wounds.
- 101 Tips on Foot Care for People with Diabetes is a book by the ADA
- Diabetic Foot from MedlinePlus, a service of the US National Institutes of Health
- Take Care of Your Feet for a Lifetime
- Diabetic Foot Ulcers: Prevention, Diagnosis and Classification
- The Diabetic Foot by Dr. Richard Hourston, a podiatrist in the UK
- Diabetic Foot Syndrome from the Kherson Center in the Ukraine
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This Internet site provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. If you have any concerns about your own health or the health of your child, you should always consult with a physician or other health care professional.
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