Prevent and Treat Diabetic Foot Problems Before They Affect Mobility
Diabetic foot problems are not inevitable and healthy diabetic feet are an achievable goal. There are two basic principles to a successful diabetic foot care plan: attention and prevention. Even for those who suffer from diabetic neuropathy or poor circulation, performing daily self-exams on your diabetic feet and taking immediate action at the first sign of diabetic foot complication symptoms can dramatically decrease your risk of developing diabetic foot ulcers and diabetic foot infections. Wearing diabetic shoes and socks at all times and using diabetic foot care products such as diabetic foot cream as needed, can help prevent diabetic foot injuries before they occur.
Read on for Dr. Hurless' guidelines and tips on how to properly care for your sensitive diabetic feet.
Your Daily Diabetic Foot Care Routine
To maintain healthy diabetic feet, do these things every day.
- Inspect your feet using our diabetic foot self-examination guidelines.
- Wash your feet with warm water and mild soap.
- Pat your feet dry rather than rubbing - Make sure your entire foot including the skin between your toes is dry.
- If you have dry skin, apply a diabetic foot lotion or cream to the top and bottom of each foot. Pay special attention to heels which can become dry and cracked. Do not apply lotion or cream to the skin between the toes.
- If your feet tend to sweat, use diabetic foot powder to prevent bacterial growth.
- Wear diabetic shoes and diabetic socks at all times, even when walking around your own home.
- Look inside your shoes for pebbles, sand, and other skin irritants before putting them on.
- Change your shoes and socks at least twice a day and more frequently if your feet tend to perspire. This gives shoes a chance to air out and prevents your feet from becoming overly accustomed to a single shoe's sole.
How to Self-Examine Diabetic Feet and What to Look For
The first thing to remember when self-examining diabetic feet is to be thorough. Examine the top, bottom, and sides of each foot as well as the heel and in between the toes. If you have trouble seeing the bottoms of your feet, diabetic foot mirrors are available to assist you.
If you notice the following diabetic foot problems administer first aid as needed; then contact your podiatrist or general practitioner.
- Cracking skin between the toes. This is often a sign of athlete's foot.
- Blisters. Usually blisters are caused by friction, but they can also be the result of burns. Do not puncture a blister! Apply ointment and a bandage to the affected area.
- Small Cuts. Rinse the wound. Apply antibacterial cream to the affected area and cover with gauze and hypoallergenic tape.
- Dry Heels. This can lead to skin cracking which can in turn lead to diabetic foot ulcers. Apply a moisturizing diabetic foot cream or lotion. If cracks have already appeared contact your doctor immediately.
- Foot Swelling. Some diabetics use compression socks or hosiery to reduce diabetic foot swelling. This is not the right choice for all diabetic patients, so be sure to consult your doctor before beginning self-treatment.
- Calluses. If you have no open foot sores, very mild calluses can be treated using the Personal Pumi Bar on damp skin. Moderate and severe calluses must be trimmed by a podiatrist.
- Sores and diabetic foot ulcers. These most often occur on the ball of the foot or on the bottom of the big toe. When they occur on the sides of the foot it is usually a sign that your shoes are the wrong size. See a podiatrist for treatment immediately. If left untreated, ulcers in particular, can lead to gangrene and amputation.
- Changes in the color of skin on the feet.
- Changes in the temperature of the skin.
- Ingrown or fungus-infected toenails.
Other Guidelines for Diabetic Feet
Although you may not need to use these diabetic foot care tips every day or even every season, they are still useful to keep in mind.
- Always wear shoes that fit properly. - Even diabetic shoes can cause blisters, calluses, and other diabetic foot injuries if they are not the correct size for your feet. The right pair of diabetic shoes will fit perfectly the moment you try them on. Do not expect to break them in over time.
- Ask your doctor about Medicare coverage for diabetic shoes.
- Consult your doctor about all potential diabetic foot problems even if you think the condition is minor, if it has not shown signs of healing within two days then it has the potential to be a serious diabetic foot complication.
- Wear seamless socks that are not overly tight and do not have an elastic band at the top. Diabetic socks made from natural fibers are good. Moisture wicking diabetic socks are better.
- Control your blood sugar level - Work with your doctor to develop a plan for avoiding high or unstable blood sugar which can make you and your feet more susceptible to infection.
- Do not smoke. Smoking constricts blood vessels decreasing the body's ability to heal wounds.
- Always consult your podiatrist before wearing open-toed shoes. Do not wear shoes with narrow straps, particularly between the toes. Diabetic sandals, sandals designed to provide both ventilation and diabetic foot protection, are a safer alternative to conventional sandals which can increase your risk of developing diabetic foot problems. The Men's Apis Boxer Dogs Sandal 9925 and the Orthofeet Women's Fisherman Shoe are two diabetic sandals sold by HealthyFeetStore.com.
- When your feet are healthy walk and exercise regularly. This will improve blood circulation making it easier to heal should you run into foot complications later on. Exercising 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week is ideal for most healthy diabetics, but do consult your doctor. Be sure to wear proper diabetic walking shoes that give your feet the sufficient orthopedic support, shock absorption, and impact protection.
- Do not exercise when you have diabetic foot ulcers or other open sores on your feet.
- Do not sit with your legs crossed, this constricts blood flow to your feet.
- To prevent ingrown toenails, cut your toenails straight across the top instead of curving them at the sides. Cut them after taking a bath, when the nail enamel is softest and easiest to cut. A podiatrist can cut your toenails for you if you cannot touch your toes.
- Keep foot-soaking to a minimum - Soaking your feet can actually make them drier.
- During cold weather, wear diabetic boots or other cold weather protection shoes. - Diabetic feet are especially susceptible to frostbite.
- Do not use electric blankets, heating pads, or hot water bottles to warm your feet.
- Test hot bath water with your elbow rather than your foot. Diabetic feet often have decreased sensitivity to heat which increases the risk of serious foot burns.
- Loosen your blanket at the foot of your bed - it won't put pressure on your toes or heels while you sleep.