Make the Most of Caring for Your Feet

Reduce your risk of serious foot infections and amputation.

Andrea Markowitz, Ph.D.

HealthKey.com contributor

November 16, 2009


Why Diabetics Should Be Concerned About Their Feet

Diabetics are prone to foot problems because high blood sugar (glucose) reduces blood flow, and causes hardening of the blood vessels and nerve damage (neuropathy) in the feet.

Poor blood circulation prevents foot wounds from healing properly. Nerve damage can cause numbness that may prevent you from realizing you have any wounds. Left untreated, wounds can become infected and cause gangrene (tissue death). If the gangrene isn't caught in time the infected toe or foot will have to be amputated.

Check Your Feet Daily For:

1. Blisters, ulcers, cuts and other sores. If you find any, get medical attention right away.

2. Changes in the shape of your feet. Don't try to force a deformed foot into regular shoes--see your health care provider for therapeutic shoes.

3. Dry skin. The nerves that control oil and moisture in your feet may stop working. Apply petroleum jelly or an unscented moisturizing cream (but not between your toes) after bathing. Don't soak your feet because soaking dries skin.

4. Calluses. They occur more frequently on the feet of people with diabetes. Get calluses trimmed immediately by a professional or they may turn into ulcers. Use a pumice stone on wet skin daily to prevent calluses from forming. Then apply lotion.

5. Ulcers. They usually occur on the ball of the foot or on the bottom of the big toe. Stay off your foot and get immediate attention from your health care provider to prevent ulcers from becoming infected, which may result in gangrene.

To Reduce Your Risk of Foot Problems:

1. Keep your glucose levels low and don't smoke. High glucose levels cause poor circulation and make it harder to fight infection. Smoking hardens arteries and reduces blood flow, which obstructs healing.

2. Exercise to stimulate blood flow (improve circulation). Wear sturdy, comfortable shoes. Don't walk when you have open sores.

3. Use warm water when washing your feet. Due to decreased sensitivity they may not be able to feel scalding hot water. Test the temperature with your hands so you don't burn your feet. Dry immediately after washing.

4. Don't go barefoot.

5. Alert your physician when you experience any changes in the appearance or sensations in your feet.