Caring for Your Feet With Diabetes

When you have diabetes, taking good care of your feet is very important. Poor foot care can lead to serious problems, including possibly having to remove -- or amputate -- the foot or leg.

As a person with diabetes, you are more vulnerable to foot problems, because the disease can damage your nerves and reduce blood flow to your feet. The American Diabetes Association has estimated that one in five people with diabetes who seek hospital care do so for foot problems. By taking proper care of your feet, most serious problems can be prevented. It's important that your doctor check your feet at least once a year for any problems.

Here are some diabetes foot care tips to follow.

Wash and Dry Your Feet Daily

  • Use mild soaps.
  • Use warm water.
  • Pat your skin dry; do not rub. Thoroughly dry your feet, especially between the toes.
  • After washing, use lotion on your feet to prevent cracking. Do not put lotion between your toes.

 

Examine Your Feet Each Day

  • Check the tops and bottoms of your feet. Have someone else look at your feet if you cannot see them.
  • Check for dry, cracked skin.
  • Look for blisters, cuts, scratches, or other sores.
  • Check for redness, increased warmth, or tenderness when touching any area of your feet.
  • Check for ingrown toenails, corns, and calluses.
  • If you get a blister or sore from your shoes, do not "pop" it. Apply a bandage and wear a different pair of shoes.

Take Care of Your Toenails

  • Cut toenails after bathing, when they are soft.
  • Cut toenails straight across and smooth with an emery board.
  • Avoid cutting into the corners of toes.
  • You may want a podiatrist (foot doctor) to cut your toenails.

Be Careful When Exercising

  • Walk and exercise in comfortable shoes.
  • Do not exercise when you have open sores on your feet.

 

Protect Your Feet With Shoes and Socks

Footwear Test

Use this simple test to see if your shoes fit correctly:

  • Stand on a piece of paper. (Make sure you are standing and not sitting, because your foot changes shape when you stand.)
  • Trace the outline of your foot.
  • Trace the outline of your shoe.
  • Compare the tracings: Is the shoe too narrow? Is your foot crammed into the shoe? The shoe should be at least 1/2 inch longer than your longest toe and as wide as your foot.

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Proper Shoe Choices for Those With Diabetes

When choosing the proper footwear if you have diabetes:

  • Buy shoes with closed toes and heels.
  • Buy shoes with leather uppers but without a seam inside.
  • Make sure there is at least 1/2 inch extra space at the end of your longest toe.
  • The inside of the shoe should be soft with no rough areas.
  • The outer sole should be made of stiff material.
  • Your shoe should be at least as wide as your foot.

Tips for Foot Safety

To keep you feet safe if you have diabetes:

  • Don't wait to treat a minor foot problem. Follow your health care provider's guidelines and first aid guidelines.
  • Report foot injuries and infections to your health care provider immediately.
  • Check water temperature with your elbow, not your foot.
  • Do not use a heating pad on your feet.
  • Do not cross your legs.
  • Do not self-treat your corns, calluses, or other foot problems. Go to your health care provider or podiatrist to treat these conditions.

When to Call Your Health Care Provider

See your health care provider if you have diabetes and any of the following problems with your feet:

  • Athlete's foot (cracking between the toes)
  • Sores or wounds on your feet
  • Ingrown toenails
  • Increasing numbness or pain
  • Calluses
  • Redness
  • Blackening of skin
  • Bunions
  • Infection
  • Hammer or mallet toes (when the middle joints of toes are permanently bent downward)
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on January 09, 2016

Sources

SOURCE: National Diabetes Education Program.

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