Foot care is essential to diabetes management. Diabetic peripheral neuropathy, or nerve damage to the feet (as well as the hands, arms, and legs), is a common complication of diabetes, and this makes the feet highly susceptible to injury and infection because they can become numb to pain. A blister or small cut may go unnoticed until the infection has already developed. A wound on the foot, when not treated promptly, will usually no longer heal. In such a case, amputation becomes the only option.
Serious diabetes complications can be easily avoided with simple, preventive measures. It’s important to establish a regular foot care routine as part of diabetes management. Below is a foot-care checklist that every diabetic should follow.
Daily foot inspection. This may seem tedious, but it’s important to do a thorough inspection of your feet every single day. Check in between your toes, your nails, heels, soles, and the top, bottom, and sides of your feet for any redness, swelling, blisters, or cuts. Visit your doctor as soon as possible if you notice anything.
Keep your feet clean. Wash them daily in lukewarm water and with mild soap. You can scrub your feet, but use a sponge or soft washcloth. Check the water temperature with your elbows or fingers. Do not use hot water, harsh soaps, and any rough-textured scrubs (such as a pumice stone), as these may damage the skin on your feet.
Keep your feet dry and moisturized. Pat your feet dry using a soft towel and don’t forget to dry between the toes. Again, avoid rubbing motions, especially if your feet have a tendency to be dry, to avoid breaking the skin. Moisturize with lotion right afterward. You can also use natural oils, particularly on extremely dry and thick skin. Avoid the areas between the toes when moisturizing, so as not to encourage fungal growth. If you have sweaty feet, you can apply antiperspirant on the soles, especially prior to wearing footwear.
Always wear socks when wearing shoes.This will protect your toes and feet from blisters and help absorb moisture. Your socks should be made of natural, breathable material and should fit properly. Socks or hosiery that are too tight and/or made of non-breathable material can cause or aggravate nerve damage or make your feet sweaty and susceptible to fungal infection. Wear a new pair of socks every day so you can also opt for special socks designed for diabetics. You can also wear socks to bed if your feet have a tendency to get cold at night, instead of using a heating pad.
Trim nails regularly. The best time to trim your nails is immediately after you’ve taken a shower or washed your feet when your nails are softer. Trim straight, instead of following the curve of the toe, and not too close to the skin to avoid ingrown nails. File the corners with an emery board instead of cutting them.
Leave your calluses or corns alone. Have a medical professional treat these conditions. Do not attempt bathroom surgeries or any form of self-treatment, as even the smallest misstep can lead to infection and a non-healing wound.
Footwear reminders. Buy shoes made of leather, suede, or canvas, as these allow your feet to “breathe.” Shoes that can be adjusted using laces, buckles, or straps are also preferable. Your toes should be able to move inside your shoes. Otherwise, the shoes are too tight. As much as possible, avoid any kind of open footwear, such as flip-flops, sandals, and open-toed shoes, when stepping out. Also, keep your feet out of shoes that are too high or too narrow at the toe-end. Before wearing your shoes, always shake them out and feel inside for any foreign object. If your feet are feeling tired, remove your shoes and let them breathe and rest. Ask your doctor about specialty shoes if you’re experiencing constant pain and discomfort.
No barefoot walking. Whether you’re at home, the beach, or the public pool, always wear footwear - the aforementioned instances are the exception to not wearing flip-flops or slippers. If you do need to take off your shoes and still have to walk, make sure you’re wearing socks to protect your feet from scratches.
Visit a foot and ankle specialist. Have your feet properly examined by a podiatrist on a regular basis.
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Prevention is better than cure is a cliche that diabetics should take to heart. Diabetes management is already a tricky business without adding complications that can arise from what usually starts out as a simple scratch on the foot. Strictly follow a foot care routine until it becomes a natural part of your daily life. The health of your feet should be made a vital part of your lifelong diabetes management.