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Special Foot Care for Diabetes

It's not high blood sugar, heart disease, or stroke that most often puts people with diabetes in the hospital. It's their feet. People with diabetes have a 3 in 20 to 1 in 4 chance of getting a foot sore during their life.

Foot wounds are the most common diabetes-related cause for a hospital stay. Foot wounds in a person with diabetes can also lead to amputation.

Fortunately, you can often prevent these serious wounds by looking at your feet every day.

Here's what you can do to help prevent foot problems:

  • Take care of your diabetes. Work with your healthcare team to keep your blood sugar in your target range.

  • Look at your feet daily. Check for sores, cuts, bruises, and toenail changes. Use a mirror to look at the bottom of your feet if you need to. Call or see your healthcare provider if you have cuts or breaks in the skin, have an ingrown nail, or if your foot changes color, shape, or becomes less sensitive. See your healthcare provider right away if you see a new sore or if your foot becomes swollen, red, or painful. Be on the lookout for changes in your feet such as the development of claw toes or hammertoes. You may need surgery.  

  • Wash your feet daily. Use a mild soap and lukewarm water. Dry your feet very carefully, especially between the toes. If the skin is dry, use a moisturizer. But don't use this between the toes. Extra moisture there can lead to fungal infections. 

  • Wear shoes and socks at all times. Never walk barefoot, even in your home. Wear comfortable shoes that fit well and protect your feet. Check inside your shoes before wearing them to make sure the lining is smooth, and there are no objects inside. If your healthcare provider tells you you’re at high risk for foot problems, he or she may recommend a specific shoe type. Wear soft, thick socks with no seams. Seams can rub and cause blisters. 

  • Exercise. Walking improves blood flow. It can also help control your weight. Wear properly fitted walking shoes. 

  • Never try to remove corns, calluses, or warts by yourself. Over-the-counter products can burn or damage your skin. Sometimes this damage can't be fixed. 

  • Don’t smoke. Smoking can cause poor blood flow to the feet and make wounds heal slowly. Many smokers with diabetes need amputations.

Finally, take your shoes and socks off and ask your healthcare provider to check your feet every time you go for a visit. A yearly foot exam is advised for all people with diabetes or more often if you have problems. During this exam, your healthcare provider will identify risk factors that can predict sores and amputations. Some risk factors are loss of feeling in your foot, foot deformities, and blood flow problems. The exam can be done either by your primary care healthcare provider or by a podiatrist. This is a healthcare provider who specializes in foot care. Ask your podiatrist or another specialist to help trim your nails if you can't see or reach them. Some diabetes centers have regular foot clinics.

Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Robert Hurd MD
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2018
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