Foot care is important to diabetics

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 20, 2002

Alabama has one of the highest rates of diabetes in the nation. Chances are good that someone in your family or circle of friends has diabetes. If you or someone you care for has diabetes, you need to be aware of the importance of taking good care of the feet. Even small cuts on the feet of a diabetic person can become ulcers and untreated ulcers can lead to the amputation of a foot or leg. Many diabetics have nerve damage in the feet and have very little feeling in them. For that reason, if you're diabetic, you can't depend on pain to tell you when your foot is injured.

People with diabetes need to wash their feet every day. Dry feet carefully, especially between the toes. Do not soak your feet unless your doctor advises it. If your feet are dry, apply a thin layer of cream or oil after washing and drying them. Do not put oil or cream between your toes.

Look for scratches, blisters and cuts on your feet every day. Check the bottom of your feet with an unbreakable mirror. If your vision isn't good enough to read small print, have someone who sees better to look at your feet. Pull your toes apart and carefully check between them.

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Cut your toenails straight across. Use an emery board to round off the edges a little. Never cut ingrown toenails or the corners of the toenail. If you see any redness, contact your doctor or a nurse. If your vision is poor or if your toenails are very thick, have a doctor cut them.

Never cut corns or calluses. Do not use corn plasters or chemicals on corns. Do not use strong antiseptics or adhesive tape on your feet. If you have foot problems often, talk to your diabetes doctor about seeing a podiatrist, a doctor who treats foot problems.

Make sure bath water is not too hot. Test the water with your elbow before you step in. Do not walk barefoot on hot surfaces like sand at the beach or concrete at the pool. Discount stores sell special shoes to wear while you are swimming. Diabetics should keep their feet warm in winter with wool socks and heavy shoes or boots. Use socks to keep feet warm in bed.

Throw away the hot water bottle and heating pad. They are dangerous to use when you have diabetes.

Most doctors recommend that people with diabetes not go barefoot, even inside. They say the only safe place to go barefoot is in the bed and in the bathtub or shower. Don't wear sandals with thongs between the toes. Always wear socks or stockings with your shoes.

It is wise to look inside your shoes and shake hem out daily. A sharp object such as a piece of gravel may get inside and you might not feel it before it has hurt your foot. My husband, Bob, who is a diabetic, has to be especially careful to check his shoes. We have cats in the house that sometimes drop objects in them.

Make sure your shoes are in good repair. Torn linings and rough edges can tear or blister your feet.

Check with your doctor to see if you need special shoes because you have foot problems. Always buy shoes late in the afternoon. Everybody's feet swell a little late in the day. Only buy comfortable shoes. Break in new shoes slowly before you wear them regularly.

To avoid swelling and loss of circulation, do not wear clothing, garters, socks or stockings that are too tight on your legs. Do not sit with your legs crossed.

Have your feet examined at least four times a year by a health care provider. Always take off your socks when you go for a medical checkup. Call your health care provider or podiatrist at once if you have a blister or sore on your foot. Do not wait until your next appointment even if it is only a few days away. Be sure that all the people involved in your health care know that you have diabetes.