Protecting Your Feet
If you have diabetes, you are more likely to have problems with your feet. Damage to the nerves in your feet and legs (diabetic neuropathy) can cause numbness, tingling, or pain. Less often, damage to the nerves can affect muscles causing weakness. You may not notice a change. If you don’t see or feel a problem when it first starts, a sore can quickly lead to a severe problem that is harder to treat.
What You Can Do
There are things you can do to keep your feet healthy. First, strive for normal blood sugars (70-130 mg/dl or the goal you and your health care team have decided upon). Next, stop smoking. Also, exercise to improve blood flow to your feet. Here are other steps you can take.
Look at Your Feet
Check the skin of your feet for cracking or calluses, blisters, cuts, bruises or red spots. Check twice a day; once in the morning and once at bedtime. Look at the tops and soles of your feet, heels and the spaces between your toes. If you find a red spot, keep the area clean and pressure free. Look for signs of infection. These signs are redness, pain, swelling, warmth, and drainage. If you cannot see your feet clearly, have someone help you or hold your foot over a large mirror.
Keep Your Feet Clean
Avoid soaking your feet. Soaking your feet will dry out your skin. If soaking is suggested, only do so for less than 5 minutes. Do not soak your feet more often than 3 times per week. Use warm water that you check with your wrist or elbow first to be sure it is not too hot.
Wash your feet daily with warm water only. You do not need to use soap on your feet every day. Use antimicrobial liquid soap if your feet have fungus. Use a soft washcloth to clean well between the toes. Use a soft toothbrush, without soap, to clean around and under the nails. If fungus is present, use soap with the toothbrush. Pat your feet to dry them and dry well between the toes.
- Other Skin Care Tips
For dry skin, use a moisture restoring cream or lotion made for those with diabetes once or twice a day. Do not apply between the toes. Bathing with bath oil also improves dry skin. If the area between the toes is moist or your feet sweat, dust them with foot powder or antifungal powder at least daily.
Do not cut any corns or calluses. Do not use corn remover medicine. A callus may be buffed with a pumice stone.
Protect your feet from heat and cold. Do not use heating pads or hot water bottles on your feet. Protect from the cold by wearing socks with your shoes.
For overlapping toes, place lamb’s wool between the toes to prevent rubbing. The lamb’s wool should be changed daily. To reuse lamb’s wool, wash with a mild soap and either blow or air dry.
Keep Your Nails Healthy
Cut your nails after you have taken a bath or shower. They will be softer after bathing. Cut your nails straight across equal to the length of your toes using nail clippers. Carefully file across the top to remove any sharp edges.
If you are not able to trim your own nails or your nails are very thick, get help from a foot doctor.
Watch for Cuts and Abrasions
Clean the area with water and a mild soap. Rinse and dry carefully. Apply an antibiotic ointment and cover the area with sterile gauze 2 times a day. Do not apply any harsh antiseptic such as iodine. Avoid Epsom salts and boric acid.
Watch for any signs of infection. These signs are redness, swelling, warmth, pain, or drainage. If the area does become infected or does not appear to be healing, call your doctor right away. Do not delay.
Call your doctor if you ever have a puncture wound, foot injury or any unknown source of blood in your sock. If you have any questions, call your doctor or see a podiatrist.
Be Careful About Your Footwear
- Change your socks daily to keep your feet dry and clean.
- Wear cotton or wool socks which absorb the moisture.
- Be sure to smooth out wrinkles in socks.
- Avoid socks with thick seams.
- Always wear slippers or shoes. Never go barefoot!
- Wear swim slippers at the beach or pool.
- Plastic and other man-made materials cause your feet to sweat. Leather shoes will allow your feet to breathe.
- Wear insulated boots to keep your feet warmer in cold weather.
- Do not wear garters or tight socks that cut off circulation.
- Check your shoes before putting them on. Be sure the inside lining is smooth and that there are no loose or foreign objects.
- When standing, your shoes should be 1/2 inch beyond the longest toe.
- Your shoes should be wide enough so that there is no pressure on any part of your foot.
- Measure both of your feet every time you buy new shoes. Buy shoes to fit the larger foot.
- Your feet will spread out as you age; so do not expect your shoe size to stay the same.
- Buy shoes later in the day since your feet are likely to swell.
- Break in new shoes slowly by wearing them for short periods of time at first.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 03/06/2012
Copyright © 03/06/2012 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4838
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