Diabetes can mean double trouble for your feet. First, diabetes can reduce blood flow to your feet, depriving your feet of oxygen and nutrients. This makes it more difficult for blisters, sores, and cuts to heal. And second, the diabetic nerve damage called peripheral neuropathy can cause numbness in your feet. When you can't feel cuts and blisters, you're more likely to get sores and infections.
If you don't notice or treat the sores, they can become deeply infected, and lead to amputation.
Sometimes, living with diabetes can seem like a full-time job -- trying to keep up with everything you need to do for proper diabetes care.
"Diabetes is a very time-consuming disease to manage well," says Karmeen Kulkarni, MS, RD, CDE, and former president of health care and education for the American Diabetes Association. "The medication, the food, the physical activity -- you add life in general to that whole picture and it ends up being quite challenging."
Diabetic peripheral neuropathy can also cause sharp pain in your feet. You may become excruciatingly sensitive to the lightest touch, like the sheets on your bed.
Fortunately, a little TLC goes a long way in preventing foot problems from diabetes.
1. Check both feet daily.
Look over both feet carefully every day, and be sure you check between all of your toes. Blisters and infections can start between your toes, and with diabetic neuropathy, you may not feel them until they've become irritated or infected.
If a physical challenge keeps you from checking your own feet, ask a family member to help.
2. Wash with warm -- not hot -- water.
Wash both of your feet briefly each day with warm -- not hot -- water. You may not be able to feel heat with your feet, so test the water with your hands first. Avoid soaking too long in water, since waterlogged sores have a harder time healing.
Dry your feet right away, and remember to dry gently between all of your toes.
3. Make sure your shoes fit well.
It's an investment worth making. Even the slightest rubbing or misfit shoe can cause a blister that turns into a sore that becomes infected and never heals.
Buy better-fitting shoes, or try different socks, even at the most minor signs of redness or irritation, since you may not be able to feel when it's getting worse. Before buying or putting on the shoes check your shoes for rough seams, sharp edges or other objects that could hurt your feet. And break your shoes in gradually.