Diabetes is a disease that carries a myriad of potential side effects, including serious problems with the feet. As many as 70 percent of people with diabetes suffer neuropathy, or nerve damage, and the feet are one of the most common areas affected. When the nerves in the feet aren’t functioning properly, patients may suffer wounds or injury they aren’t aware of. John A. Scheffel, DPM, of Scheffel Foot Center in Worcester, Massachusetts, wants patients with diabetes to know there are steps they can take to better care for their feet and prevent complications. Here are five tips to help you take better care of your feet, even while managing your diabetes.
1. Keep your blood glucose levels in check
It may not seem directly related to your feet, but working with your diabetes health care team to properly monitor and control blood glucose levels will work to keep your feet healthy as well. Don’t overlook your blood sugar monitoring and control measures if you want to protect your feet.
2. Plan daily checks of your feet
Diabetic neuropathy can allow injuries to your feet that you don’t feel. Because of this, check your feet daily for any signs of injury. If you notice red spots, bleeding, cuts, swelling, bruises or blisters, have these areas checked by your podiatrist. Don’t neglect the bottoms of your feet. Use a mirror, if needed, to check them.
3. Pay attention to foot hygiene
Wash your feet daily, even if you don't shower daily. Dirty feet that are injured are more prone to infection, so cleanliness is critical. After washing, dry your feet thoroughly, including between the toes. Then, apply skin lotion to the tops and bottoms of your feet. Leave the area between the toes lotion-free.
4. Wear proper footwear
Patients with diabetic neuropathy should never walk barefoot. Walking barefoot increases the chances of a foot injury, and poor nerve function could mean you don’t know you step on something dangerous. Also, it gets quite cold here in Worcester, so proper footwear will keep your feet protected from cold temperatures. Wear shoes and socks at all times. When at home, wear house slippers to provide your feet with proper protection. Before putting shoes on, check inside the shoe to ensure there is nothing sharp that could injure your feet.
5. Pay attention to blood flow
If your nerves are damaged due to diabetes, you may not feel it when your feet “fall asleep.” Lack of blood flow to the feet could further damage the nerves. To keep blood flowing to your feet, make sure you keep your toes and ankles moving multiple times per day. When you are sitting, prop your feet on something. Avoid the temptation to sit cross-legged for long periods of time, which can cut off blood flow to your feet.
Partner with your medical team to care for and protect your feet
In addition to these tips, make sure you have a foot doctor check your feet every year, and schedule an appointment at the first sign of foot trouble. Taking care of your feet needs to be a priority the moment you’re diagnosed with diabetes. The better care you take at the beginning, the better function you’ll have with your feet for the long term.
Do you need more tips on caring for your feet while managing diabetes? Dr. Scheffel and the team at the Scheffel Foot Center are happy to help. Contact us today, or request an appointment online.