Many people think that diabetes just has to do with managing your food intake. Managing your foods, especially carbohydrates, is very important, but diabetes affects every part of a persons’ body, including the feet. Preventing complications is the goal of good diabetes management.
The best strategy for preventing complications of diabetes — including foot ulcers — is proper diabetes management with a healthy diet, regular exercise, blood sugar monitoring and adherence to a prescribed medication regimen.
Proper foot care will help prevent problems with your feet and ensure prompt medical care when problems occur. Tips for proper foot care include the following:
- Inspect your feet daily. Check your feet once a day for blisters, cuts, cracks, sores, redness, tenderness or swelling. If you have trouble reaching your feet, use a hand mirror to see the bottoms of your feet, place the mirror on the floor if it's too difficult to hold, or ask someone to help you.
- Wash your feet daily. Wash your feet in lukewarm water once a day. Dry them gently, especially between the toes. Use a pumice stone to gently rub the skin where calluses easily form. Sprinkle talcum powder or cornstarch between your toes to keep the skin dry. Use a moisturizing cream or lotion on the tops and bottoms of your feet to keep the skin soft. Avoid using petroleum jelly products as these can clog your pores.
- Don't remove calluses or other foot lesions yourself. To avoid injury to your skin, don't use a nail file, nail clipper or scissors on calluses, corns, bunions or warts. Don't use chemical wart removers. See your doctor or foot specialist (podiatrist) for removal of any of these lesions.
- Trim your toenails carefully. Trim your nails straight across. Carefully file sharp ends with an emery board. Ask for assistance from a caregiver if you are unable to trim your nails yourself.
- Don't go barefoot. To prevent injury to your feet, don't go barefoot, even around the house.
- Wear clean, dry socks. Wear socks made of fibers that pull (wick) sweat away from your skin, such as cotton and special acrylic fibers — not nylon. Avoid socks with tight elastic bands that reduce circulation, as well as thick bulky socks that often fit poorly and irritate your skin.
- Buy shoes that fit properly. Buy comfortable shoes that do not fit tightly and that provide support and cushioning for the heel, arch and ball of the foot. Avoid high heels or narrow shoes that crowd your toes. If one foot is bigger than the other, buy shoes in the larger size. Your doctor may recommend specially designed shoes (orthopedic shoes) that fit the exact shape of your feet, cushion your feet and evenly distribute weight on your feet.
- Don't smoke. Smoking impairs circulation and reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood. These circulatory problems can result in more severe wounds and poor healing. Talk to your doctor if you need help to quit smoking.
- Schedule regular foot checkups. Your doctor or podiatrist can inspect your feet for early signs of nerve damage, poor circulation or other foot problems. Schedule foot exams at least once a year or more often if recommended by your doctor.
- Take foot injuries seriously. Contact your doctor if you have a foot sore that doesn't begin to heal within a few days or other persistent problems with your feet. Your doctor will inspect your foot to make a diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate course of treatment
This will be my last news column as the County Extension Coordinator for Dallas County. I started my new position as the Assistant Director for County Offices this week. Thanks for reading my column and I hope you found it educational and beneficial.