Consistent foot care is essential for diabetics. Diabetes can cause nerve damage, pain and numbness. Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) is a circulation disorder that affects blood vessels and typically strikes the veins and arteries that supply extremities and organs located below the waist. PVD decreases the amount of blood vessels. Blood vessels are also narrowed due to arteriosclerosis, the build-up of plaque inside a vessel, This decreases the amount of blood and oxygen supplied to extremities, such as the legs and feet. Clots may even develop, further restricting the affected vessel.
Because of the seriousness of these conditions, proper foot care is essential. Here are twelve steps recommended by doctors and the American Heart Association for diabetic foot care:
- Inspect your feet every day. Look at your bare feet for red spots, cuts, swelling, and blisters. Use a mirror to inspect the bottom of your feet or ask for someone’s assistance.
- Seek medical care early if you have a foot injury, an ingrown toenail or notice anything suspicious. Tell your health care provider if a foot changes color, shape, or just feels different. Numbness and tingling in your feet are other reasons to seek medical care at once.
- Even if you don’t notice any problems with your feet, make sure your health care provider checks your feet regularly. Your health care provider should also explain the do’s and donts’ of foot care.
- If you have corns or calluses, your health care provider can trim them for you. Your health care provider can also trim your toenails if you cannot do so safely.
- If you trim your own toenails, trim them straight across and file the edges with an emery board or nail file. Again, because nicks can easily happen from nail clippers, it may be wiser to let your physician trim your toenails.
- Wash your feet every day and dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes.
- Keep your skin soft and smooth. People with high glucose levels tend to have dry skin and less ability to fend off harmful bacteria. Rub a thin coat of skin lotion over the tops and bottoms of your feet, but not between your toes. The extra moisture there can encourage fungus to grow.
- Be more active. A good exercise program strengthens the heart and increases blood flow. Plan your physical activity program with your health team.
- Wear shoes and socks at all times and never walk barefoot, especially outside. Wear comfortable shoes that fit well and protect your feet. Check inside your shoes before wearing them. Make sure the lining is smooth and there are no objects inside. Your physician may recommend special diabetic shoes, which are often covered by Medicare.
- Protect your feet from hot and cold. Wear shoes at the beach or on hot pavement. Don’t put your feet into hot water. Test water before putting your feet in it and never use hot water bottles, heating pads, or electric blankets that could burn your feet without you realizing it has happened.
- Keep the blood flowing to your feet. Put your feet up when sitting. Wiggle your toes and move your ankles up and down for 5 minutes, two or three times a day. Don’t cross your legs for long periods of time.
- Because foot care is so important to diabetics, your physician may recommend a foot care specialist. Do not neglect routine visits to your podiatrist.
The most important step you can take to ensure healthy feet, however, is to take care of your diabetes. Work with your health care team to keep your blood glucose in your target range. Eat properly, exercise, and follow a consistent medicine regime. Diabetes is a long-term condition that has impacted millions. Don’t wait to begin proper foot care. Take your own health care seriously and you can minimize some diabetic complications.