Now, lest you think life with diabetes is all doom and gloom and foot problems, please remember that it’s entirely possible to take good care of yourself, your diabetes, and your feet. Catching problems early (and preventing problems entirely where possible) are crucial in preventing future complications. After all an ounce of prevention is work a pound of cure. So, here are a few things you can do:
1) Daily foot inspections – Inspecting your foot daily may not sound like the most exciting use of your time, but such inspections are essential in finding problems to your foot early on, particularly if you have nerve damage. (If it helps to make it seem less boring, you can begin your inspections by donning a Sherlock Holmes type of cap, putting a pipe (an unlit one, of course) firmly between your teeth and using a wonderfully large magnifying glass.) If you can’t see your foot well, or if you have trouble reaching it, have a friend or family member assist you, or use a mirror (the magnifying ones are best) to check those hard-to-see places (like the bottom of your foot). (You can also use the mirror to tell yourself what a wonderful person you are, and compliment yourself on your excellent self-care of your feet.) Pay particular attention to the soles of your foot and between your toes, since this is where problems can often crop up. Check your skin for any sign of irritation or injury. Look for scrapes or cuts (however small), blisters, rashes, signs of infection like redness, swelling, drainage, or a bad smell, or possibly changes in skin color, or loss of hair on your foot or toes. Check your nails for problems. Do they look yellowed or have other changes in color? Are they thickened, deformed, striped, or just not growing? Look for signs that you may have fractured your foot. Check your foot overall for redness, see if it’s warm or hot to the touch, swollen, or has changed in size, shape or direction. If you notice any of the above on your feet, see your podiatrist as soon as possible. Don’t assume that the problem will go away on its own, and don’t try to just wait it out. Getting problems treated early is a MUST in diabetic foot care. Doing so can significantly reduce your chance of developing a severe complication. Set a specific time for your foot inspection every day, just to be sure you don’t forget.
2) Clean your feet – Wash your feet every day with lukewarm water and mild soap. (You can even make this part of your foot inspection regimen, if you like.) Be sure to test the water temperature with your hand (or elbow if your hand doesn’t have great sensation either) just to make sure it isn’t too hot, or have someone test the water for you. Dry your feet thoroughly but gently using a soft towel, paying particular attention to the skin between your toes. You can use talcum powder (aka baby powder) to wick moisture away from your skin, but be sure to get rid of any residue, particularly between your toes. Don’t soak your feet unless your podiatrist advises you to do so.
3) Lubricate dry skin – Apply a thin film of moisturizer (Cetaphil cream is recommended) to the soles of your feet while they’re still wet. Avoid getting the cream between your toes, since this can foster a fungal infection.
4) Trim nails – Cut your nails straight across. Rounding corners down can lead to ingrown toenails, which can become infected. Keeping your nails properly trimmed can also reduce pressure within your shoe and help you avoid other complications. If your feet are fragile with poor circulation or feeling then you may need to have this done by your podiatrist.
5) Promote circulation to your foot – You can help blood flow more easily to your foot by putting up your feet while sitting. (Putting up your feet while standing isn’t likely to work well.) You can also try little foot exercises like wiggling your toes and moving your foot up and down at the ankle for five minutes at a time. Try doing this about two or three times a day.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. See your podiatrist at least twice a year, and be sure to tell him or her that you have diabetes. See your podiatrist immediately if you notice any blisters, punctures, pain in your feet or legs (leg pain may be a sign of a blocked artery), change in skin or nail color, loss of sensation, or if there’s an area of your foot with increased or decreased temperature.