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Diabetes Health Center

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Diabetes and Foot Problems

Can These Foot Problems Be Prevented?

Proper foot care can help prevent these common foot problems and/or treat them before they cause serious complications. Here are some tips for good foot care:

  1. Take care of yourself and your diabetes. Follow your health care provider's advice regarding nutrition, exercise, and medication. Keep your blood sugar level within the range recommended by your doctor.
  2. Wash your feet in warm water every day, using a mild soap. Test the temperature of the water with your elbow, because nerve damage can affect sensation in your hands, too. Do not soak your feet. Dry your feet well, especially between the toes.
  3. Check your feet every day for sores, blisters, redness, calluses, or any of the other problems listed above. If you have poor blood flow, it is especially important to do a daily foot check.
  4. If the skin on your feet is dry, keep it moist by applying lotion after you wash and dry your feet. Do not put lotion between your toes. Your doctor can tell you which type of lotion is best to use.
  5. Gently smooth corns and calluses with an emery board or pumice stone. Do this after your bath or shower, when your skin is soft. Move the emery board in only one direction.
  6. Check your toenails once a week. Trim your toenails with a nail clipper straight across. Do not round off the corners of toenails or cut down on the sides of the nails. After clipping, smooth the toenails with a nail file.
  7. Always wear closed-toed shoes or slippers. Do not wear sandals and do not walk barefoot, even around the house.
  8. Always wear socks or stockings. Wear socks or stockings that fit your feet well and have soft elastic.
  9. Wear shoes that fit well. Buy shoes made of canvas or leather and break them in slowly. Extra wide shoes are also available in specialty stores that will allow for more room for the foot for people with foot deformities.
  10. Always check the inside of shoes to make sure that no objects are left inside by mistake.
  11. Protect your feet from heat and cold. Wear shoes at the beach or on hot pavement. Wear socks at night if your feet get cold.
  12. Keep the blood flowing to your feet. Put your feet up when sitting, wiggle your toes and move your ankles several times a day, and don't cross your legs for long periods of time.
  13. If you smoke, stop. Smoking can make blood flow problems worse.
  14. If you have a foot problem that gets worse or won't heal, contact your doctor for advice and treatment.
  15. Make sure your diabetes doctor examines your feet during each check-up. An annual foot exam should be performed that includes an inspection of the skin, a check of the temperature of your feet, and an assessment of the sensation to the foot.
  16. See your podiatrist (foot doctor) every two to three months for check-ups, even if you don't have any foot problems.

When Should I Contact My Doctor if I Have Diabetes?

If you have diabetes, contact your doctor if you experience any of the following problems:

  • Changes in skin color
  • Changes in skin temperature
  • Swelling in the foot or ankle
  • Pain in the legs
  • Open sores on the feet that are slow to heal or are draining
  • Ingrown toenails or toenails infected with fungus
  • Corns or calluses
  • Dry cracks in the skin, especially around the heel
  • Unusual and/or persistent foot odor

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on January 26, 2015
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