Have Diabetes? 5 Tips for Healthier Feet

How to avoid cuts and take care of your feet
Healthy bare feet in sandals

By: Sue Cotey and Andrea Harris, RNs

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If you have diabetes, you know how easy it is to injure your feet — without even realizing it.

Nerve damage from diabetes can cause numbness in your extremities (called neuropathy), and when your blood sugar is elevated, your body’s ability to fight off infection or heal a wound is also lessened. Unnoticed and untreated, a foot wound for a person with diabetes can cause a serious medical problem.

Here are five ways to take care of your feet — including how to lower your risk for injury as well as what to do if injury does occur.

1. Do daily skin checks

Touch and inspect your feet every day. Check for cuts, bruises, swelling or tender areas. Clean cuts with plain soap and water and cover with a dry dressing. If you have problems checking your feet because of your eyesight, ask a family member to help you.

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2. Keep feet clean and comfortable

Wash your feet each day in warm water. Dry them carefully, especially between the toes where moisture can develop. Apply lotion every day, but keep the area between the toes dry. Wear comfortable shoes and clean socks that don’t have holes or rough seams that could irritate your skin.

3. Never go barefoot

In the summer, you might want to be barefoot, but if you have diabetes, even a simple injury like a stubbed toe can lead to a foot ulcer and other complications. Keep a pair of slippers by your bed, and always wear something on your feet when you are inside as well as outside.

4. Control your sugar

Stay within the targeting blood sugar levels that your healthcare provider recommends. The American Diabetes Association recommends target blood sugar levels be less than 130 mg/dl fasting and before meals and no higher that 180 mg/dl two hours after meals.

To maintain your target goals, follow your individualized meal plan, keep an eye on carbohydrate servings and, if you take medication for your diabetes, be consistent in taking them.

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5. Treat foot wounds right away

If you do have a foot wound, early intervention is key. Clean the area with soap and water and cover with a bandage or dry dressing. If you don’t notice an improvement after one day, contact your healthcare provider. Don’t try to self-treat or use over-the-counter treatments, as they can be caustic and irritating to people with diabetes.

As a person with diabetes, if an infection is left untreated for long, you may require oral antibiotics, and if it becomes serious, it can lead to a hospitalization for intravenous antibiotics or surgery. In the worst cases, untreated infections of the foot can lead to amputations.

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