Diabetics: Don’t tip-toe around good foot care

Nerve damage can cause people with diabetes to lose feeling in their feet. Here's what you can do to minimize your risk.

A diabetic may not realize that they have cut their foot or developed a blister. These cuts and blisters may be slow to heal or may not heal at all, which can eventually lead to amputation. But you can minimize your risk by following a few simple steps. 

Blood vessels make up the circulatory system which pumps blood throughout your body. Blood vessels can become narrow or clogged. This can cause strokes, heart attacks or peripheral arterial disease (PAD), meaning legs and feet aren’t getting enough blood. PAD can cause pain, numbness or lead to sores that heal slowly or not at all.

Michigan State University Extension says that diabetics can prevent problems with their feet by the following listed tips:

  • Keep blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels close to normal. That means taking medications as prescribed, testing blood sugar frequently, eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet, getting daily exercise, not smoking and getting regular health and dental care.
  • Look at all parts of your feet, especially the bottoms, each day, noticing red spots, sores, infected skin/nails or swelling. Use a handheld mirror or one positioned on the floor to help see your entire foot.
  • Wash and dry feet well every day. Do this in warm, not hot, water. Test the water with your elbow or with a thermometer; 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit is a safe temperature. Dry well between toes.
  • Keep the tops and bottoms of your feet hydrated with lotion or cream to prevent dryness. Don’t put lotion between your toes, which may lead to infection.
  • Ask your doctor or podiatrist how to care for calluses or corns. They may suggest a pumice stone to smooth down rough spots. Don’t use liquid callus or corn removers, plasters or anything sharp, as these can damage your skin.
  • Keep toenails trimmed, straight across. If you can’t see well or if your toenails are growing into the skin, have a foot care professional trim them.
  • Always wear socks and shoes. Don’t walk barefoot, indoors or outdoors – you may step on something and not realize it. Socks and shoes should fit your feet well. Look inside shoes before putting them on to make sure there’s nothing in them.
  • Protect feet from hot and cold. Wear warm boots in cold weather. Avoid hot pavement and direct sunlight in warm weather. Keep your feet away from campfires, heating pads and hot water bottles.
  • Maintain circulation flow. Engage in physical activity every day and wiggle your toes or rotate your ankles while resting. Don’t cross your legs at the knee or the ankle, and don’t wear tight socks.

Ask your health care provider how to care for your feet. Have them check the feeling and pulse in your feet at each visit. Contact a health care provider right away if a sore, cut, blister or bruise on your foot doesn’t begin to heal after one day.

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