Diabetes is a disease that affects the body’s ability to produce insulin, but the long-term complications that stem from diabetes can cause damage to the entire body, including the eyes, kidneys, heart, and nerves. More than 28 million Americans currently have diabetes, and nearly half of them will develop neuropathy, or loss of feeling in the lower extremities. Neuropathy is a particular concern for diabetics because foot injuries can go unnoticed and become infected.
Diabetes is currently the leading cause for non-traumatic amputation of the lower limbs, so extra care must be taken to recognize changes in the feet and prevent the occurrence of injuries. Diabetics should follow these steps for routine foot care:
- Inspect the tops and bottoms of your feet daily. Check for redness, swelling, cuts, bruises and changes to the toenails such as thickening, discoloration or ingrown toenails.
- Wear soft, natural-fiber socks that fit snugly but are not too tight. Avoid socks with seams, which can rub against feet and cause blisters or sores.
- Wash feet daily with mild soap and warm water. Pat dry with a soft towel and apply a moisturizing lotion, avoiding the area between the toes.
- Wear properly-fitting shoes at all times to protect feet and toes from injury. Avoid open-toed shoes or sandals, and never go barefoot whether you are indoors or outdoors. When shopping for new shoes, always try them on with socks to ensure a proper fit.
- Cut toenails straight across and gently file the edges to prevent ingrown toenails. Never clip cuticles or attempt to remove calluses, warts or corns by yourself.
- Exercise regularly to promote circulation in the lower extremities.
In addition to daily foot care, diabetics should maintain annual check-ups with a podiatrist to ensure that feet stay healthy. Routine doctor visits will detect any changes or abnormalities in the legs and feet that could be a sign of complications. Call your doctor immediately if you notice any color changes, numbness, tingling, pain, open sores or ingrown toenails (Source: American Podiatric Medical Association)
For more information about foot care and managing diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association.