Diabetes Foot Care Tips

Because you have diabetes, you probably check your blood sugar several times a day to stay within a healthy range. Once a day, check your feet, too.

Why? Diabetes can cause poor blood flow to your feet, so small cuts or sores don't heal as well, and they can take longer to recover.

If your blood sugar isn't well-controlled, you can also have poor or no feeling in your feet. You might not even realize you have a minor injury. Diabetes can also dry the skin on your feet and make your heels crack.

The big risk is infection. Germs or fungus can get into small cuts or cracks.

If you think you've gotten an infection, tell your doctor right away. Early treatment can prevent it from spreading. And that makes you more likely to avoid bigger problems. Some people with diabetes who get major infections even have to get surgery to remove part or all of an affected limb.

So, check your feet carefully each day. Keep your skin clean and moisturized, avoid injuries, and protect your feet to prevent small cuts, corns, calluses, blisters, or injuries.

Daily Foot Inspection Checklist

  • Set a specific time each day to do this check.
  • Use good light so you can spot any problems.
  • If it’s hard for you to lean over or see your foot, ask someone to help you.
  • Look at your feet, toes, and heels for any cuts, sores, bruises, calluses, blisters, scrapes, scratches, or skin color changes.
  • Check between your toes for cuts or fungus that might cause athlete’s foot.
  • Look at your toenails to spot any changes.
  • Watch for dry, cracking skin on your feet, toes, and heels.

Foot Care Tips

Wear thick, soft socks to protect your feet as you walk. Don’t use socks with seams that might rub against your skin and cause blisters.

Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes. Shoes that are too tight or too loose may lead to blisters.

Don’t go barefoot. You don’t want to step on rocks, tacks, or small pieces of glass that could cut your feet. Wear slippers at home.

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Make sure the insides of your socks and shoes are clean and free from small pebbles or debris that could cut your feet.

Keep your feet clean. Don’t soak them for a long time. This can dry your skin.

Dry your feet well after a shower or bath. Make sure you dry between your toes.

After you bathe and towel your feet, moisturize your skin. Rub lotion or petroleum jelly into your skin and heels to keep them from drying and cracking. Don’t put lotion or jelly between your toes, though -- this can lead to an infection.

In winter, cold weather and central heating can dry out your skin. Take extra care to moisturize your feet and keep them warm. Wear socks to bed if you get cold.

Toenails and Pedicures

Don't let the corners of your toenails grow into the skin. This could cause an ingrown toenail.

File your toenails with an emery board. You can also have a nail technician or your podiatrist trim and file them regularly. If you get pedicures at a nail salon, bring your own nail tools.

Don’t use anything sharp to clean under your toenails or to remove calluses. You don’t want to accidentally get a cut that could let an infection set in. You can use a pumice stone to gently smooth your heels after taking a shower or bath. Don't rub too harshly.

Help Prevent Infections

Exercise regularly to keep your blood flow healthy.

Watch your blood sugar levels and follow your diet as your doctor directs. If you keep your blood sugar and weight under control, you may have fewer foot problems.

Don’t smoke. Smoking can narrow your blood vessels and raise your chance of getting foot problems.

Also, note any cuts, scratches, scrapes, blisters, corns, or calluses, even if they're small. Let your doctor or podiatrist know in case you need medical treatment.

When to Call Your Doctor

Look for any redness, swelling, or drainage that could be a sign of an infection. If you think an infection is starting, get medical attention.

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Watch for foot sores called ulcers. They often develop on the balls of your feet or the bottoms of your toes. Tell your doctor if you think you have one.

Nails that seem thicker, yellow, changed in shape, striped, or not growing normally could be a sign of an injury or infection.

If your foot, ankle, or toe is swollen, red, hot to the touch, changed in shape or size, or hurts during normal movement, you may have a sprain or fracture. Call your doctor or seek medical treatment right away. Damage to your nerves, called diabetic neuropathy, can raise your chance of having a serious condition called Charcot foot, which causes a change in the shape of the foot.

Call your doctor if you have minor foot problems like bunions, hammertoe, plantar warts, or athlete’s foot, a fungal infection. Treat these issues before they become more serious.

If you spot a wart, corn, or callus on your foot, don’t try to treat it yourself with over-the-counter pads or liquids. Don’t try to cut it off your skin. Ask your podiatrist or doctor to remove it safely.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on May 07, 2019

Sources

Fred Williams, MD, Endocrine and Diabetes Associates, Louisville, KY.

American Diabetes Association: “Foot Complications.”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Prevent diabetes problems: Keep your feet healthy.”

American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons: “Diabetic Complications and Amputation Prevention.”

American Podiatric Medical Association: “Diabetes.”

American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society: “Charcot Arthropathy.”

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