Bresta Miranda-Palma, MD, is a professor with the Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami Medical School, and she urges everyone with diabetes to take care of their feet. She maintains that a daily routine of foot care is vital for healthy feet.
The reasoning is sound. The professor points out that, "people can develop complications before they realize they even have a problem. I've seen people walk on a nail for weeks until infection has developed".
In someone with diabetes even the smallest cuts or wounds have the potential to become serious very quickly. When someone’s legs have other issues such as nerve damage then it is easy to overlook minor wounds. Any problems must be dealt with whilst they are minor, if they get infected then complications can set in very quickly leading to gangrene which can be cause for amputation.
Miranda-Palma gives some hard facts in support of stating the importance of daily foot care. The professor says. "About 85% of amputations can be prevented if the patient gets a wound treated in time".
And it is easy to prevent becoming one of the 85%. By carrying out a daily foot check and visiting a podiatrist regularly means that you have cut your risks easily and quickly.
Regular Foot Care for people with DiabetesDaily CareUse a mild soap to wash your feet in warm water. Take extra care over the temperature if you have nerve damage. If your feet have limited feeling then it is possible to burn your feet in water that is too hot. After washing and rinsing the feet, dry them thoroughly, taking care that everywhere is dry, especially between the toes. This area is more liable to have fungal infections so extra care must be taken. If you use lotion to help stop the skin from cracking now is the time to use it but try to avoid getting it between your toes.
Soaking your feet increases the risk of infection, so make sure that your feet are clean and then remove them from the water.
In addition to the daily wash trim your toenails. Always cut them straight across with a nail clipper, this stops ingrowing nails from developing. Ingrowing nails only start because the nails have been cut down the side or have had the corners rounded off. To complete the job just smooth the nails with an emery board.
How to check your feet daily
Part of the daily check is the visual inspection. This requires you to see all of the foot so a mirror might come in handy, or have a friend or family member help you. As a matter of routine it is always a good idea to get your doctor to check your feet whenever you visit the surgery.
Things to look for when you are examining your feet include cuts and scratches. If they are minor then wash with some mild soap and apply antibiotic cream which has been recommended by your healthcare provider. Sterile bandages are very useful to protect the cut until it heals. If the cut is more serious, perhaps it has a redness or is oozing or smells then this is time to contact the doctor immediately.
Ulcers can be caused by badly fitting shoes developing sores which then become ulcers, or scrapes and cuts can go the same way too. However if the initial treatment is carried out quickly then ulcers can be rare. If anything is taking longer to clear up than normal then talk to your doctor.
Dry skin is common, as is cracking, itching and red skin between the toes. The common reason for this is fungal growth, sometimes known as athlete’s foot. The treatment for this is cream or pills from your doctor. But to minimize the risk of getting it in the first place always ensure that you wash with a mild soap, then rinse off completely before drying very well, especially between the toes.
Blisters are common to everyone if the shoes are new or don’t fit as well as they should. However to diabetes sufferers it is much more important that they are treated quickly. Do not burst any blister that you may have, that just increases the risk of infection. Clean it, cover with an antibacterial cream and then cover it with a clean protective bandage.
As we get older corns and calluses come with the territory. Whenever you shower or wash your feet smooth them down with a pumice stone or emery board. If any of them are large then smooth it down slowly, over a few days. As a diabetic person you should never use pharmacists’ corn or callus removal remedies and do not try to remove them either.
If you have plantar warts, which are painful and look similar to calluses and normally develop on the bottom of the foot then you must see a doctor for treatment. These warts develop because of a viral infection.
Ingrowing toenails can be avoided by always cutting the nails straight across the top. It is not uncommon for ingrowing toenails to lead to pain, redness and infection, meaning that a visit to the doctor is necessary.
If your toenails become thick and yellow it is probable that you have a fungal infection. Again your doctor has the answer. They may prescribe medication which is long term but it will remove the discoloration and enhance the appearance of the nail.
If you have redness, the skin is hot to touch in any area, swelling or pain then this indicates that you have an infection and inflammation. Get in touch with you doctor immediately. If your skin has turned a blue or black color then this is an emergency, you must go directly to hospital. These symptoms indicate a blood flow problem.
When to contact your doctor
If you become aware of any changes to your feet or lower legs then you should inform your doctor. These changes can include varying temperatures in different areas of your feet, color changes or swelling. Also starting to feel pain is another reason for a doctor’s visit as is discovering any smells which do not go away.
Your doctor should also be made aware that you have corns or calluses, ingrowing toenails or infected toenails or dry skin around the heel. And if any wounds or sores are not healing in the normal manner then a visit to you doctor is probably required.
Precautions to take care of your feet
There are many easy and simple precautions that you can take to ensure that you protect your feet. For example always wear footwear, don’t go barefoot, only wear ‘sensible shoes’ that is, flat good fitting shoes that protect your feet. Make sure that all footwear fits properly and is well broken in before wearing for long periods of time and always wear cotton or wool socks. Whenever you are buying a new pair of shoes always wear the same socks that you will normally have on when wearing the new shoes.