Diabetes and Foot Protection
MADISON - Flip-flops and sandals are normally the footwear of choice during the warm summer months.
But wearing them could be disastrous for diabetics who have poor blood circulation or nerve damage that can numb their feet and make them unaware of infectious cuts and burns. In severe cases, such infections have led to the amputation of toes and feet.
Kara Yeager, RN, nurse clinician at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, advises people with diabetes to wear well-fit shoes that don't expose the skin and that reduce chances for injuries.
"You don't want to end up with an infection because you wore flip-flops," she says. "People with diabetes should know what their feet look like, so they know if there are sores that weren't there before. Otherwise, it could turn into an infection that must be treated."
"With most patients, a blister will heal fine," says Dr. Melissa Meredith, associate professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. "But, with some patients who have nerve damage and are at risk for problems, we advise them to get into the habit of checking their feet daily and wearing proper footwear."
Meredith, a practicing endocrinologist, adds that the problem affects fewer than 50 percent of diabetics, but people who have had the disease longer or who are older with poor circulation are more susceptible to problems.
"If you've had diabetes for 20 or 30 years, you are more likely to have nerve damage in your feet," she says.
Aside from wearing the right type of shoe, people with diabetes should also:
- Wash their feet in warm water every day and dry them thoroughly
- Use lotion on feet to prevent cracked skin, athletes' foot and other conditions that can cause infections
- Keep toenails properly manicured by using a nail clipper and emery board
- See their doctor if they notice sores, cuts, calluses and other irritations that could lead to infections.
- Ask the doctor about getting special shoes that protect their feet (may be covered by insurance)
Date Published: 06/17/2009