Feet are one of the
most important yet maligned parts of the body. They are our little
chauffeurs, getting us where we want to go. Theyíre twin fashion
statements, getting squeezed into trendy shoes no matter how high the
heel or how narrow the toe. And they are our little scapegoats, because
even as we try to do something good for the rest of the body, like walk
or run, our feet still bear the brunt of abuse.
While we should all give our feet better than they get, people with
diabetes should be particularly concerned about foot care. According to
the American Diabetes Association, one fifth of all people with diabetes
who enter the hospital do so for foot problems. Diabetes creates
havoc on the circulation system, clearing the way for a variety of foot
problems that can lead to more serious complications for the rest of the
Hereís how it works: Increased blood sugar levels cause decreased
circulation. Poor circulation means that the blood doesnít move
sufficiently to the feet. Without proper circulation, the feet become
more vulnerable to infection and injury.
Another potential problem for diabetics is diabetic neuropathy, or nerve
damage. When nerve damage occurs, the ability of the feet to register
pain, hot or cold is diminished, and therefore at greater risk of
injury. Because of this decreased sensitivity, damage to the feet may
go unnoticed until infection has actually occurred.
People with diabetes have a higher risk for calluses, which, if
untreated, can turn into ulcers. A pumice stone can be used daily on
calloused areas to gently soften the skin. Lotion may be used for extra
moisturizing, but do not use moisture between the toes. Infections
thrive in moist, dark areas such as between the toes, so that area
should be kept as dry as possible.
the skin on the feet becomes very cracked and dry, it is an indication
that the nerves that control sweating have been damaged. Because
cracked, peeling skin is an invitation for infection, dry feet
thoroughly after bathing.
Diabetic ulcers are sores on the surface of the skin, which do not
heal. Ulcers are more common for people over 40, and for people with
diabetes related kidney damage or eye changes. Your doctor should treat
any breakdown of the skin immediately. Common places for ulcers to
develop are the ball of the foot and below the big toe. Ulcers can also
develop on the side of the foot, often due to bad fitting shoes. Ulcers
that go untreated can develop infection and lead to amputations.
Here are some foot care
tips for diabetics:
Keep blood sugar under control. High blood sugar makes it difficult to
Donít smoke. Smoking can assist in poor circulation and therefore cause
problems. According to the ADA, most diabetics who have limb amputations
Thoroughly inspect feet daily for sores, calluses, dryness, or redness.
If necessary, have someone help examine the feet or use a mirror.
Donít wear anything that constricts circulation, such as tight hose or
Clean feet daily. Lotion is okay on cracked skin, but never use between
not soak feet or use heating pads. Because of decreased sensitivity,
diabetics can burn themselves without realizing it. The safest way to
make the feet warm is by wearing extra socks.
Always protect the feet. Diabetics should not walk barefoot.
Always check with the doctor before using over-the-counter remedies on
calluses or warts. The chemicals in such products may be too severe for
careful when choosing footwear. Make sure shoes fit properly. Socks
should be soft and comfortable, not tight. Diabetics should not wear
socks with seams or rough spots. The doctor may be consulted about
footwear for the diabeticís special needs.
Diabetics should have their feet checked by their doctor at least once a