So, you are diabetic and you are concerned about your feet? You may have heard horror stories from diabetic friends or seen images of severely infected feet online. There is good reason to be concerned, but the good news is that many, if not most of these conditions are preventable! If you have loss of feeling in your feet, called neuropathy, or poor circulation in your feet/legs then you are at a higher risk of developing diabetic foot complications.
A few simple lifestyle changes can go a long way to preventing these foot issues. They are:
- The number one, most important thing you can do is take a couple minutes out of your day to visually inspect your feet. Look them over top and bottom, and between the toes to make sure there are no cuts, blisters, foreign bodies or other issues present. If you have lost feeling in your feet you may not feel the normal pain response from these minor injuries and may be unaware anything is wrong unless you see it. Make this a daily habit, it can save your foot!
- Stop going barefoot, even in the house. Get a pair of house slippers that has a hard rubber sole to protect your feet from any sharp objects on the floor. You’d be amazed how a shard of broken glass or a broken insulin needle can find its way into your foot. This can lead to severe infections, often requiring surgery, hospitalization, and sometimes amputation. If you frequent swimming pools or hot tubs get some pool shoes to provide similar protection.
- After bathing dry carefully between the toes. This is a great time to apply some moisturizing cream to your feet, but avoid putting heavy amounts between the toes as you don’t want to much moisture in those confined spaces. We recommend Eucerin, Amlactin, or Remedy Skin Repair Cream. Living in Colorado with the dry climate along with decreased sweat production caused by the autonomic component of neuropathy can make your feet very susceptible to dryness and skin cracking. Once the skin has cracked open there is a portal of entry for bacteria and infection.
- Test the temperature of bath water with your hand first to make sure it is not too hot, assuming you have intact sensation and no neuropathy in your fingers. Dr. Davis has seen and treated severe burns to the feet for this reason. Similarly, avoid using heating pads or ice packs on the feet which can lead to thermal injuries.
- Break in new shoes slowly, especially if you have neuropathy. Wear them 15 minutes, take off the shoes, and inspect your feet for any areas of redness or other irritation. Then wear them 30 minutes and re-inspect. Gradually increase the time in the shoes until you are confident that they fit properly. Wearing shoes that are too small for the feet is an all too common problem. This is a frequent cause of blisters and ulcers(sores) on toes and elsewhere. Did you know that your feet stretch out over time as ligaments relax over decades and that you must increase length and width of shoes as you get older? For some diabetics it is recommended to be properly fitted and measured for shoes by a trained pedorthist.
- Empty your shoes out before putting them on. Its amazing how pebbles, small toys, golf tees, mice, twigs and other assorted items can find their way into your shoes, especially if you have small children around. These can cause serious injury to feet that have lost their sensation.
- Do not cut your corns or calluses off and never use chemical corn remover pads. These actions can lead to severe infections. Many patients with calluses, corns, ingrown nails, or thick fungal nails will require regular professional treatment by your friendly podiatrist. Thick calluses are often a precursor to diabetic foot wounds, called ulcers. With regular care, many foot ulcers can be prevented.
If you notice any abnormalities with your toes, feet, or ankles that require attention please give our office a call to set up an appointment with Dr. Davis for evaluation. We can often see patients quickly for urgent problems.
Judd Davis, DPM – Diabetic Foot Care Podiatrist
Judd Davis, DPM with A New Step Foot & Ankle Clinics is a compassionate podiatrist (foot and ankle doctor) who helps patients with diabetic toe, foot, or ankle issues. A New Step Foot & Ankle Clinics is located in Colorado Springs, Colorado.