Diabetes complications can trip up feet. Even ordinary foot problems can turn serious — quickly. That’s why it’s important to stay on your toes. Take steps to avoid problems, and keep your eyes on your feet. Prevention and detection can make all the difference.
Seven reasons why diabetes is hard on feet
1. Diabetes can cause neuropathy (nerve damage), which can reduce sensations of pain, heat and cold. You may not feel a callus, a splinter, a pebble in your shoe or any other foot problems. Your skin may break down and form an ulcer (open sore or wound), inviting a foot infection.
2. The nerves that control the oil and moisture in your feet may not work properly, causing dry skin. Your skin may peel and crack, opening the door to infection.
3. Diabetes can cause a circulation problem called peripheral arterial disease (narrow, hardened blood vessels in the foot and leg), which deprives tissues of oxygen and nutrients. Your feet and legs may be cold, numb and bluish or reddish, and your calves may cramp when you walk. Wounds and infections may not heal properly. Smoking worsens the problem — it’s one of the biggest threats to your feet.
4. High blood glucose levels can “feed” and worsen bacterial and fungal infections in your feet.
5. Another diabetes complication, kidney disease, affects wound healing.
6. Diabetic retinopathy (an eye disease) can make it hard to see foot problems.
7. If a severe foot infection doesn’t heal or gangrene (tissue death) sets in, you may face amputation of your toe, foot or even leg. Smoking increases your risk. Fortunately, amputations may be avoided by taking good care of your feet.
What is the “I Decide To Fight Diabetes” campaign?
The “I Decide To Fight Diabetes” campaign seeks to inspire people to live healthier lives and make better choices when it comes to preventing and managing diabetes. The campaign is designed to empower Americans to become a voice for the cause and get more involved in activities to support the ADA’s mission. Through this campaign, people with diabetes, their friends and families, as well as those at risk, are encouraged to display their commitment by wearing an I Decide To Fight Diabetes charm, which can be worn on a keychain, necklace or bracelet. In addition, they can upload a picture of themselves or a loved one, and have it transformed into a personalized logo printed on items such as T-shirts, tote bags or mugs. Participating in the campaign means that Americans everywhere can become an active, visual champion in the fight against diabetes. For more information on diabetes and the I Decide campaign, visit diabetes.org/IDecide or call 1-800-DIABETES.
Foot Pointers: How to treat your feet
1. Start with total-body diabetes care. Exercise, don’t smoke, stick to your meal plan, and control your blood glucose levels, blood pressure and cholesterol.
2. Inspect the tops and bottoms of your feet every day. If you can’t see your soles, use a mirror or ask someone for help.
3. Contact your health care provider immediately if you develop any open sore (cut, ulcer) or any sign of infection (ingrown toenail, redness, warmth, swelling) on your foot. Let your health care provider know if you develop pain, numbness, coldness, calluses, corns, warts, toenail changes, or pain in your calves when you walk.
4. Ask your health care provider to check your feet during each visit.
5. Wash your feet daily with mild soap and lukewarm water. Dry your feet thoroughly, especially between your toes. Then apply plain petroleum jelly or unscented moisturizer to the tops and bottoms of your feet.
6. Trim your toenails straight across when they’re soft from bathing. File any sharp corners.
7. Never treat corns or calluses by cutting them or using over-the-counter chemicals, which can burn skin. Have your health care provider treat the problem. To help prevent calluses, use a pumice stone daily on wet skin, and apply lotion afterward.
8. Never warm your feet with hot water, hot water bottles, heating pads or electric blankets. You may burn them and not know it. Instead, wear warm socks.
9. Don’t soak your feet. This can dry and crack your skin.
10. Always wear shoes or slippers to prevent foot injury. To prevent blisters, wear socks with shoes.
11. Don’t wear socks or knee-highs that are too tight. They may reduce blood circulation.
12. Before putting on shoes or slippers, make sure the lining is smooth and no objects are inside.
13. Ask your health care provider about Medicare and insurance coverage for special shoes to take the pressure off calluses, corns or other problem areas. Shoe inserts can also help.
14. Have your feet measured each time you buy new shoes. Don’t buy uncomfortable shoes, expecting them to stretch. Avoid shoes with high heels or pointed toes.
15. Break in shoes slowly. Wear them one to two hours each day for the first few weeks.
16. To promote blood flow, put up your feet when you sit. Wiggle your toes and move your ankles up and down for five minutes, two or three times a day. Don’t cross your legs for long periods.