Do #1 after your evening shower.
Your feet might not be the first thing on your mind after a diabetes diagnosis, but foot complications are a common (and serious) complication of the condition. Diabetes is associated with poor blood circulation and nerve damage, called neuropathy. With less blood reaching your feet, cells receive insufficient oxygen, which can make wounds (even seemingly minor cuts or blisters) heal more slowly and progress into more serious infections.
Having diabetes doesn’t mean you’re doomed for foot problems, however. These tips can help you take better care of your tootsies.
Inspect your feet daily. Neuropathy may mean you don’t feel sensations on your feet as well as you used to, which means dangerous cuts or cracks could go undetected if you’re not checking carefully. Take a look at your feet at least once a day and look for calluses, scaling, blisters, swelling, redness, or cracks—especially between the toes or on the heels. “If you can’t see the bottom of your foot, either have somebody that you live with check the bottoms of your feet, or you could even get a mirror,” says podiatrist William Spielfogel, DPM, chief of the division of podiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital.
Stay moisturized. Choose thick and creamy moisturizers that can keep the feet hydrated and avoid cracked heels. (Learn more tips for avoiding cracked heels here.)
Dry your feet well. Dark and damp places are a haven for fungus, which can do more than just invite foot odor. “If your feet are wet and you put your socks on,” says Spielfogel, “that’s a good breeding ground for a fungal infection.” With diabetes, these infections can heal more slowly.
Know your shoe size. Shoes that are too tight or too roomy can cause blisters, calluses, cracked heels, and more. Never leave the store without first trying on the shoe, since all brands and shoe types can feel a little different on the foot. Your foot also tends to get slightly bigger with age or after other body changes, like pregnancy. You could also use orthotics to help shoes fit better and protect against foot problems (not to mention back pain).
Check the insides of your shoes before you slip them on. If you have peripheral neuropathy—damage to the nervous system that results in numbness or tingling in the feet and hands—you may be more likely to miss a dangerous object like a thumb tack or rock inside your shoe. This can lead to infection.
Take caution with pedicures. Yes, you can pamper your feet at a professional salon, but you need to choose a business with top-notch hygiene practices and alert the technician that you have diabetes and tell them they need to be careful not to cut the skin, says Minisha Sood, MD, an endocrinologist in New York City. Check out these tips for a safe and healthy pedicure, and chat with your doctor before hitting up the salon.
Seek professional care when problems arise. Don’t do “bathroom surgery” and attempt to nix ingrown toenails or calluses on your own. “If you do cut yourself by accident,” warns Dr. Spielfogel, “it could lead to a serious problem.”
For more lifestyle tips with diabetes, here are healthy habits to help manage blood sugar.
Sandra Arevalo is a spokesperson for the American Association of Diabetes Educators and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and director of nutrition services and community outreach at South Bronx Health Center.William Spielfogel
Dr. Spielfogel is the chief of podiatry in the department of orthopaedic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.Minisha Sood
Dr. Sood is a board-certified endocrinologist in private practice in New York City and an assistant professor at Hofstra School of Medicine.
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it's important that people with
diabetes take care of their feet.
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the first thing that you need to do is
inspect your feet on a daily basis.
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Especially if you have
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that lack of sensation in your feet.
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And you should be concerned that
you may have a cut or scrape or
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bruise on the bottom of your
foot that you're not feeling.
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So you have to get into the habit of,
every day, inspecting your feet.
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And if you can't see
the bottom of your foot,
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either have somebody that you live
with check the bottoms of your feet.
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Or you can even get a mirror
to check the bottoms of your
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So if someone with diabetes notices
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that there's some skin changes or even dry
skin, moisturizing helps a lot in that
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area, washing the feet regularly.
Also very important to dry your feet
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very well after you shower and
bathe, especially between your toes.
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Because fungal infections like to
live in dark, damp environments.
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So if your feet are wet and you put your
socks on and then put your shoes on,
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that's a good breeding ground for
a fungal infection.
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And these diabetic patients
are more prone to developing
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these types of fungal infections.
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It's very, very important that
you are sized appropriately, and
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the appropriately sized shoe.
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You may be a size eight in one brand, but
in another brand, you may be a size ten.
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You have to try on the shoe and
you have to make sure there's enough room.
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And there are no areas of pressure,
which could lead to irritation and
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could lead to a sore.
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Also, check the inside of your
shoes before you put your shoes on.
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Again, if you have this peripheral
neuropathy, this lack of sensation,
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there could be a small tack in your shoe,
there could be a pebble in your shoe.
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And you'll put your shoe on, and
you won't even realize it's there.
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People with diabetes often ask me,
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can they go to the nail salon and
get pedicures, and is that safe?
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Well, my answer to them is that they can,
but they should go to
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a nail salon that keeps things very
clean that maybe uses separate tools for
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them, or they can bring their own tools.
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It's important for them to instruct
whoever's cutting their nails that they
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have diabetes, and that they need to
be careful about cutting the skin.
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The toenail should be cut straight
across and not necessarily
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into the bed of the toenail.
Don't do bathroom surgery if
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you have a corn or a callous or
an ingrown toenail.
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You do not want to take care of it on your
own because if you do cut yourself by
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accident, it could lead
to a serious problem.
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So you should definitely seek the help
of a podiatrist to take care of any
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issue that you find on your foot.
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4 tips for foot care when you have diabetes. Boston, MA: Joslin Diabetes Center. (Accessed on April 10, 2021 at http://www.joslin.org/info/4_tips_for_foot_care_when_you_have_diabetes.html.)Foot complications. Arlington, VA: American Diabetes Association. (Accessed on April 10, 2021 at http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/foot-complications/.) Peripheral neuropathy fact sheet. Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (Accessed on April 10, 2021 at https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Peripheral-Neuropathy-Fact-Sheet.)