9 Tips For Healthy Feet When Living with Diabetes
Author: Dr. Morissa Schwartz
Managing diabetes is no small feat (pun intended). Between tracking blood sugar, dealing with doctors’ appointments, organizing medications, cooking healthy food and staying active, you might feel like your brain will burst if there were one more thing you need to worry about. You may have heard of the risks diabetes poses to your feet and legs but pushed the thought away as more immediate concerns like blood sugar and medications needed to be addressed. Luckily, some regular preventative care can help you avoid having something else to worry about.
Diabetes can lead to foot issues over time by causing diabeteic neuropathy, or nerve damage. This can cause tingling, pain, or numbness. When you can’t feel your feet, you may be unaware of cuts or sores on your feet. Left untreated, these small injuries can grow and become infected. Reduced blood flow to the feet can also slow the healing process of wounds or infections, potentially leading to gangrene.
Avoid serious issues like these with the following tips for regular foot care.
Check your feet every day.
The easiest way to avoid foot problems is to check your feet each day. Keep it simple by making it a habit to take a look whenever you put your shoes on or take them off. If bending to see the bottoms of your feet is a struggle, use a mirror to get a better look. Keep an eye out for:
- cuts, sores, or redness,
- Irritation around toenails
- Dry or callused skin
- Growths or warts.
Cover open wounds or blisters immediately to avoid chance of infection. Ask your doctor about any injuries that are slow to heal.
Always wear shoes and socks.
It sounds simple, but it could save you a lot of trouble. One of the biggest risks for foot injury with diabetes is stepping on something and not being able to feel it. A small injury can quickly worsen if not taken care of early.
You should also make sure to always keep a layer of fabric between your feet and your shoes by wearing socks or stocking. This will help to prevent rubbing and the development of blisters, as will wearing shoes that fit properly.
Take care when trimming toenails.
Make sure to always clean nail trimming tools before use. Cut your nails straight across rather than trying to follow the curve of the nail. Use a nail file to smooth the edges. Don’t cut your nails excessively short, either.
Wash your feet daily.
Washing your feet with warm, soapy water each day will help prevent bacteria buildup and infection. Applying talcum powder between toes afterward dry out those areas and reduce the chance of athletes foot and other fungal infections.
Have your feet checked at doctors’ visits.
It never hurts to have a second (or third!) pair of eyes on a situation. Ask your doctor to check your feet next time you go to their office to ensure you haven’t overlooked anything.
Smoking has a negative effect on blood flow to bodily tissue, which can worsen foot problems in diabetics. It can also reduce your ability to live an active lifestyle, which has a negative effect on overall health.
Be careful of extreme temperatures.
As tempting as it may be, don’t put your feet up in front of your campfire. You should also wear closed shoes when walking on hot sand or pavement and always apply sunscreen to your feet when they’re exposed to the sun. If you have nerve damage in your feet, you may not notice a burn until it’s severe, so it’s best to prevent it all together.
Cold feet can also be related to restricted blood flow, so keep them warm by sleeping with socks on in the winter and wearing warm, waterproof shoes in bad weather.
As with many health issues, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. Exercise that is easy on your feet but still elevates your heart rate, such as biking, yoga, swimming, or walking.
Choose socks carefully.
Avoid socks with tight elastic bands. These can further restrict blood flow to the feet and worsen many of the symptoms mentioned above. Also be sure to change socks often if your feet sweat to avoid athlete’s foot.
Contact your doctor about any concerns and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you're unsure about something.