Diabetes, especially when poorly controlled, is like a runaway train coursing through every part of your body. One of its most serious complications is diabetic neuropathy, nerve damage due to high blood sugar that primarily impacts the nerves responsible for sensations in your feet. This, coupled with a narrowing of blood vessels in your feet, can cause a cascading chain of events that, if unchecked, can lead to gangrene and amputations.
Nerve damage keeps you from feeling foot problems—that’s why visually inspecting your feet as well as caring for them proactively are extremely important parts of diabetes wellbeing. A simple blister can easily become infected, and infection becomes harder to control because of narrowed blood vessels—there’s less opportunity for the body to heal itself when your circulation is compromised. On a very basic level, diabetes makes it more likely that you’ll experience foot woes like blisters. Any numbness in your feet could change your balance and the way you walk and stand, leading to injuries that you may not notice until they become serious.
Following a diabetes treatment plan to control your blood sugar is the best way to protect your feet as well. Next on the list is smart foot care with these tips.
Everyday Foot Care
Check every inch of your feet each evening to look for small problems before they become serious complications. If you need a reminder, set an alarm on your watch or electronic pillbox. Peak between your toes where moisture can lead to skin irritation. Look for skin woes including any cracks in the skin, cuts, redness and swelling. Be sure to check the soles of your feet, too (use a hand mirror if needed).
Feet take a daily pounding—protect them with skin lotion or cream over the top and bottom of your feet. Just avoid applying any product between the toes where bacteria can grow.
Don’t walk barefoot, even at home. Have comfy slippers or booties you can change into.
If you’re going to be at the beach or poolside, remember your feet whenever you apply sun protection.
Get in some daily exercise to encourage blood flow and good health. You don’t need to run a marathon, but a brisk walk is great for head-to-toe health.
Weekly Foot Care
Keep your toenails neatly trimmed. Clip them after taking a bath or shower—the water will soften nails and make them easier to trim. Clip straight across, parallel to or just beyond the tip of each toe. Don’t trim cuticles or poke the skin around each nail. Can’t see what you’re doing? Ask a family member to help you or talk to your doctor about in-office care.
Enlist the help of your diabetes medical team with foot care and ask your primary doctor if you should see a podiatrist regularly. Ask about warning signs to watch for and when to call the office with concerns, such as swelling, redness, drainage, fever or pain—all possible signs of infection.
Foot woes, from stubborn calluses to an ingrown nail, are reasons to see your primary doctor or a podiatrist. Don’t try to manage them with sharp over-the-counter tools—they could harm the health of your feet or mask a growing problem. Report any changes in color, shape or sensitivity.
Best Footwear Forward
Choose shoes carefully. They should be comfortable and offer support. Make sure they fit you correctly. You should be able to wiggle your toes, but not slip and slide in the shoes. Certain styles leave feet more prone to corns, calluses and blisters—skip tight, pointed or open toe shoes as well as slingbacks and high heels.
Always wear socks or hosiery to cushion the skin of your feet and absorb perspiration, and change them every day. Stay away from socks with numerous seams or tight elastics. Choose styles like Care Sox by Alba Health, soft, cotton oversized socks with a loose fit to promote better circulation.
Keep in mind that preventing foot issues is the goal. Of course, sometimes problems will arise, no matter how careful you are. If caught early, they’re much easier for your doctor to treat. If allowed to linger, minor problems can become severe and hard to correct.