Diabetes can damage nerves in your arms and legs. It’s called peripheral neuropathy. If you have it, your feet and skin need extra care and attention.
Small injuries to your feet, like those caused by shoes that don’t fit well, can lead to bigger problems. That's because calluses, blisters, sores, infections, and foot ulcers often appear in places that are numb from nerve damage. You may not notice the injury.
Don White, 68, a retired science teacher from upstate New York, first suspected he had type 2 diabetes when he was 45 years old and his school held a health fair for students and teachers. A simple prick of his finger to test for high blood sugar -- a sign of diabetes -- revealed some unexpected news.
"My numbers were way above normal," says White. "In a matter of days, and a couple of doctor's appointments later, I found out I had type 2 diabetes."
White and his family were surprised by the diagnosis...
Also, people with uncontrolled diabetes may have other problems, like trouble fighting infections and poor circulation, that make them slower to heal. This means a minor cut in your skin could become an ulcer or a serious infection. With good foot care, you can prevent issues like these.
How to Take Care of Your Feet
Caring for your feet is easy. It's best to do it at bath time or as you get ready for bed. Remember that good foot care also means seeing a doctor early if you spot a problem so it doesn’t get worse.
Follow these everyday habits:
Check your feet daily. Wash and dry them thoroughly. Use a handheld mirror to inspect them. Look for blisters, cuts, cracks, dry skin, redness, tenderness, or sores on the top, between your toes, and on the soles.
Put powder between your toes. This helps keep those moist areas dry and helps prevent fungal infections.
Rub lotion on your feet and legs to prevent dry, cracked skin. But don't put it between your toes because that can lead to fungal infections.
Keep your nails trimmed. Use an emery board for filing, not clippers, so you don't hurt your skin.
Protect your feet. Always wear shoes or slippers to protect your feet from injury. Don't use a heating pad or hot water bottle to warm your feet. You could burn them without feeling it.
Get checkups. On each visit, make sure the doctor inspects your feet.
Don't use corn removers or other drugstore foot treatments. They can be harmful. Let a doctor treat your foot problems.
Tom Elasy, MD, MPH, Ann and Roscoe R. Robinson Associate Professor of Clinical Research at Diabetes Center, director, Center for Diabetes Translational Research, director, Division of General Internal Medicine and Public Health, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN.
National Diabetes Education Program: "Take Care of Your Feet for a Lifetime."