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5 Foot Care Tips to Prevent Wounds continued...

Get the right shoes. Going barefoot increases the chance you'll injure your feet, so always wear slippers or shoes and socks. To discourage bacteria and fungus between toes and to prevent irritation, follow these tips:

  • Wear socks made of cotton or a material that wicks away moisture. Avoid socks with seams, which can cause rubbing or irritation, and nylons, which make feet sweat and don’t provide enough protection for your feet. Change socks daily. 
  • Make sure your shoes fit well. Stay away from pointed shoes, which crowd the toes, and those with seams inside the toe box, which can irritate them. “Don’t buy shoes first thing in the morning,” Kavros says. “Wait until mid-afternoon, when you already have some edema [swelling] in your feet. You’ll get a much better fit.”

Get foot exams. “At the very least, everyone with type 2 diabetes should have an initial foot exam with a podiatrist to evaluate their nerves, circulation, and anything in their foot structure that could predispose them to problems down the line,” Kavros says. This includes bunions, corns, and hammertoes (buckled-under toes). A podiatrist can also provide regular foot care if you can’t.

Ask your doctor to look at your feet at every diabetes checkup.

Exercise -- but gently. Diet and exercise are the cornerstones of diabetes care -- for keeping blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels in check. If you’re worried about foot injuries, talk to your doctor about the right exercise for you. Swimming, biking, yoga, and tai chi are among the exercises that are easy on your feet.

How to Care for Wounds

If you don’t have nerve damage or circulation problems from diabetes, Kavros recommends cleaning a small cut or blister with soap and water. Cover it with gauze -- not an adhesive bandage -- so it can breathe. “If it doesn’t improve in a day or two, seek professional help,” he says. Your primary doctor may treat it or send you to a podiatrist or wound care specialist.

If you have neuropathy or circulation problems, see a doctor for even a small wound, says Farhad Zangeneh, MD, assistant professor at George Washington University School of Medicine and medical director of the Endocrine, Diabetes and Osteoporosis Clinic in Sterling, Va. How small? “One of my patients put on jeans without putting them through fabric softening,” Zangeneh says. “The jeans were abrasive, and this caused ulcerations to the skin. He got an infection and was in the hospital for a week.

“I’d rather have a doctor look at it, even if that person ends up saying that it’s just superficial,” Zangeneh says. “Especially if it’s a big wound, don’t let the sun set without someone looking at it." Be sure to tell the doctor that you have diabetes.

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