Approximately one fifth of diabetic Americans are hospitalized for foot-related problems at some point in their lives. Many symptoms of diabetes contribute to the risk of foot infection. Diabetics often experience thick calluses which can break and develop into ulcers. Another possible symptom of diabetes is poor circulation which - in turn - impairs the body’s ability to heal, repair and fend off infection. Diabetes can also lead to neuropathy, severe nerve damage that limits sensation in extremities. Because of nerve damage, a diabetic may not even feel the pain of an injury or infection, allowing wounds to go unnoticed and thus worsen. When a wound is left untreated for too long, it can become infected. Medical treatment can include antibiotics, hospitalization, and – in extreme circumstances - amputation. The feet are particularly vulnerable as they are often out of sight and difficult to inspect. For these many reasons, it is vitally importance that diabetics practice thoughtful, rigorous foot care.
The following are recommended tips for keeping your feet happy and healthy!
- Always wear appropriate diabetic shoes or slippers and NEVER walk around barefoot. Choosing the right footwear is critical to foot health as the majority of diabetic foot injuries are the result of poor fitting shoes. Shoes for diabetics should not be too tight or narrow. They should be constructed from comfortable, breathable material and feature mesh vents to ventilate the shoes, decreasing moisture, which tends to bred bacteria. Pair a high quality pair of diabetic shoes with seamless socks or compression stockings.
- Regularly check your feet for any sign of calluses, blisters, sores, or injuries. Make it a daily ritual, perhaps something you complete right after brushing your teeth and before bed. Use a hand mirror to inspect those hard-to-see places. If that doesn’t work, have a family member check your feet for you.
- Wash your feet every day and after rigorous exercise or activity. Use soap and warm water – test the temperature with your elbow if you have difficulty discerning the temperature. Do NOT soak feet. Prolonged soaking can lead to dry, cracked skin.
- After washing your feet, use an emery board carefully file down calluses. Do not over-file as that can lead to sores and bleeding – which is exactly what you are trying to avoid.
- Use a light coat of lotion after you wash and file. Be careful not to slather on lotion or allow it to trap between the toes as this creates an excellent environment for bacteria to breed. Massage in the lotion until it is completely absorbed.
- Trim your nails as needed. Most people find once a week or every other week works best. Shape the nail to the contour of your toes and be careful to not trim them too short. File the edges to prevent snagging nails that can tear.
- Never ignore foot issues of any kind. If you discover a cut, treat it immediately. If you notice as of the following, contain your physician immediately: swelling, cracks around the heel, calluses that bleed, nail issues, open sores, changes in color of the skin, pain in your legs, or changes in skin temperature.
- Visit your doctor for an annual foot check-up. Ask if they have any concerns or can recommend any products for improving your foot care regimen.
Please note that this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition, or be taken as medical advice. For more information related to your unique situation, please speak with your personal physician.
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