Diabetes is a condition that affects around 1 in 10 people in the U.S. alone. People with diabetes experience a range of symptoms, from fatigue and blurry vision to extreme thirst and even fevers. Managing your diabetes involves careful attention to your diet, blood sugar levels, and more. Additionally, those living with diabetes may experience neuropathy, wounds, cellulitis, and other conditions of the feet.
To take care of your feet if you have diabetes, you should wear the proper shoes and socks, keep your feet clean, avoid nail salons, inspect your feet daily, and establish care with a foot and ankle specialist.
Staying on track with your foot care will help you avoid expensive visits to the doctor, dangerous infections, and even limb loss. As a podiatrist, I want to offer you my top 5 tips for taking care of diabetic feet.
1. Wear the Proper Shoes and Socks
Footwear is of the utmost importance because diabetes can cause neuropathy, a condition characterized by numbness, tingling, and diminished blood flow to the extremities. This includes the feet. Not having ideal circulation can be an issue if you develop wounds, ulcers, or blisters on the feet. A lack of blood flow means delayed healing, so it's important to contact a podiatrist or wound-care specialist right away if you notice a problem.
How does this tie into shoes and socks, though?
Wearing ill-fitting shoes can cause blisters and abrasions that turn into full-blown wounds. Because of the neuropathy, you might not be able to feel any rubbing or injury as it happens. Custom orthopedic shoes are an option and are covered by your insurance, but any diabetic-specific shoe will work.
And I know what you're thinking: aren't diabetic shoes ugly? They may not have been stylish a decade ago, but the orthopedic-shoe industry has come a long way, and there are plenty of fashionable, quite non-frumpy options available nowadays. Your podiatrist can get you set up with a prescription or more specific recommendations.
What Are the Best Socks for Diabetics?
Now, what about socks? The main thing to remember when choosing a sock is to always gravitate towards seamless options. That seam along the toe of most commercial socks can also cause rubbing, and you want to avoid that as much as possible. Compression socks for diabetics are also a great choice. The compression will help to promote healthy blood flow and prevent slow-healing ulcers.
2. Keep Your Feet Clean and Dry
Thoroughly washing your feet every day, drying them completely, and applying foot lotion can all help to prevent infections of the feet.
How to Wash Your Diabetic Feet
- Always use lukewarm water. Test the water first to make sure it's not too scalding. You should be looking for the same temperature you'd use to give a child a bath.
- Wash and dry between your toes. And don't leave out the drying step. Bacteria love dark, cramped spaces (i.e. the space between your toes). Cleaning any lingering bacteria or debris and then getting rid of excess moisture is crucial.
- Use a lotion with urea in it, and never put lotion between your toes. Urea helps to restore the skin's natural moisture barrier. Pay careful attention to your heels and avoid putting lotion between your toes, as this will introduce more moisture
3. Avoid Nail Salons
Nail salons have sprung up in just about every strip mall across America. Some even operate out of people's garages and basements. And while I don't think every single nail salon is inherently unhygienic and dangerous, they can quickly become hazardous to those more susceptible to infection. If you have diabetes, avoiding the nail salon will also help you avoid painful, possibly life-threatening infections.
Can People with Diabetes Get Pedicures?
The fact that you have diabetes should not take away your right to enjoy a nice hour or two of pampering. People with diabetes should opt for medical pedicures. A medical pedicure is different from a traditional pedicure because it is performed in a sterile setting by a technician or provider well-versed in proper foot health and hygiene practices. The instruments used in a medical pedicure are surgically sterilized, so there is little to no risk of infection.
Additionally, a medical pedicure may be more beneficial if you have diabetes because the trained technician performing the service can inspect your feet and alert the physician if they notice anything concerning.
4. Inspect Your Feet Daily
Noticing something out of the ordinary as quickly as possible is essential to avoiding infection, getting a head start on healing, and protecting you from potential limb loss. You should look for the following:
- Wounds or Ulcers
- Dark Spots or Suspicious Moles
- Ingrown Toenails
- Thick and/or Discolored Nails
A quick note about the last thing on the list above: Fungal toenails are not as harmless to diabetics as they may seem to others. While any case of fungal toenails can and should be treated, those with diabetes may be at risk for developing cellulitis. The fungal infection can spread from the nails to the skin, causing athlete's foot which can develop into cellulitis. Get those fungal nails taken care of sooner rather than later.
5. Go to a Podiatrist at Least Once Per Year
Regular, routine foot maintenance is essential if you have diabetes. Podiatrists are foot specialists and are well-educated on how to properly care for diabetic feet. Preventing the common issues those with diabetes face is as easy as establishing care with a podiatrist and visiting them at least once a year, more frequently if your diabetes is uncontrolled.
You can ask your primary care physician for a referral, but if you're in the Freeland, Bay City, Saginaw, or Midland, Michigan, areas, there's no need to! Freeland Foot and Ankle Clinic is always accepting new patients, and we don't require a referral (unless it's required by your insurance provider). Come in for a routine diabetic-foot examination and see how easy it is to keep your feet healthy, happy, and ready to carry you through life.