Foot problems are common in people with diabetes. You might be afraid you’ll lose a toe, foot, or leg to diabetes, or know someone who has, but you can lower your chances of having diabetes-related foot problems by taking care of your feet every day. Managing your blood glucose levels, also called blood sugar, can also help keep your feet healthy.
How can diabetes affect my feet?
Over time, diabetes may damage the nerves that cause tingling and pain in your feet. When you lose feeling in your feet, you may not feel a pebble inside your sock or a blister on your foot, which can lead to cuts and sores, they then become infected.
Diabetes also can lower the amount of blood flow in your feet. Not having enough blood flowing to your legs and feet can make it hard for a sore or an infection to heal. Sometimes, a bad infection never heals.
Gangrene and foot ulcers that do not get better with treatment can lead to an amputation of your toe, foot, or part of your leg. A surgeon may perform an amputation to prevent a bad infection from spreading to the rest of your body, and to save your life.
Although rare, nerve damage from diabetes can lead to changes in the shape of your feet, such as Charcot’s foot. Charcot’s foot may start with redness, warmth, and swelling. Later, bones in your feet and toes can shift or break, which can cause your feet to have an odd shape, such as a “rocker bottom.”
What can I do to keep my feet healthy?
Work with your health care team to make a diabetes self-care plan, your plan should include foot care. A podiatrist may be part of your health care team.
Include these steps in your foot care plan:
Tips to Take Care of Your Feet
1. Check your feet every day
2. Wash your feet every day
3. Smooth corns and calluses gently
4. Trim your toenails straight across
5. Wear shoes and socks at all times
6. Protect your feet from hot and cold
7. Keep the blood flowing to your feet
8. Get a foot check at every health care visit
What problems should I look out for?
➢ cuts, sores, or red spots
➢ swelling or fluid-filled blisters
➢ ingrown toenails, in which the edge of your nail grows into your skin
➢ corns or calluses, which are spots of rough skin caused by too much rubbing or pressure on the same spot
➢ plantar warts, which are flesh-colored growths on the bottom of the feet
➢ athlete’s foot
➢ warm spots
If you have certain foot problems that make it more likely you will develop a sore on your foot, your doctor may recommend taking the temperature of the skin on different parts of your feet. A “hot spot” can be the first sign that a blister or an ulcer is starting.
What NOT to do
➢ cut corns and calluses
➢ use corn plasters, which are medicated pads
➢ use liquid corn and callus removers
To keep your skin smooth and soft, rub a thin coat of lotion, cream, or petroleum jelly on the tops and bottoms of your feet. Do not put lotion or cream between your toes because moistness might cause an infection.
Go visit a doctor to trim your toenails if:
➢ you cannot see, feel, or reach your feet
➢ your toenails are thick or yellowed
➢ your nails curve and grow into the skin
If you want to get a pedicure at a salon, you should bring your own nail tools to prevent getting an infection. You can ask your health care provider what other steps you can take at the salon to prevent infection.
If you have nerve damage from diabetes, you may burn your feet and not know you did. Take the following steps to protect your feet from heat:
1. Wear shoes at the beach and on hot pavement.
2. Put sunscreen on the tops of your feet to prevent sunburn.
3. Keep your feet away from heaters and open fires.
4. Do not put a hot water bottle or heating pad on your feet.
Tips to improve blood flow to your feet:
a. Put your feet up when you are sitting.
b. Wiggle your toes for a few minutes throughout the day. Move your ankles up and down
and in and out to help blood flow in your feet and legs.
c. Do not wear tight socks or elastic stockings. Do not try to hold up loose socks with rubber
d. Be more physically active. Choose activities that are easy on your feet, such as walking,
dancing, yoga or stretching, swimming, or bike riding.
e. Stop smoking.
When should I check my feet?
You should get a thorough foot exam if you experience the following:
• changes in the shape of your feet
• loss of feeling in your feet
• peripheral artery disease
• had foot ulcers or an amputation in the past
Taking care of your feet is an obligation whether you are diabetic or not.
Managing your blood glucose levels can also help keep your feet healthy.
Do not forget to use your buddy The Spike App to level your glucose and make sure you’re healthy!
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