With everyone wanting to wear flip-flops and sandals during the heat, maybe this would be a good time to remind those with diabetes to take good care of their feet.
“Diabetics who have not been in good control of their blood sugar can have complications which include neuropathy or damage to the tiny nerve endings, especially in their feet,” Newman Memorial Hospital Registered Dietitian Ruth Ann Givens, MS, RD/LD said. “If they have nerve damage to their feet, they cannot feel injuries or sores as well as they used to.”
According to Givens, wearing flip-flops exposes feet to possible injuries which could get infected. Because of the nerve damage, a patient wouldn't even know or feel the injury.
“This is sometimes called protective sensation,” Givens shared. “The ability to feel injuries, even very small ones, which motivate us to use band aids, Neosporin, etc. to help our skin heal.”
If a patient can't feel an injury due to neuropathy, the sore can become infected and become a very big problem, according to Givens.
“I have literally heard stories of people stepping on nails and not even knowing it because they no longer had ‘protective sensation’ in their feet,” Givens said. “Many times, these complications of diabetes like neuropathy can be reversed somewhat or improved, depending on how advanced the damage is.”
According to Givens, improved blood glucose control is key.
“Outpatient education with a registered dietitian is a great first step toward improving your health and blood glucose control,” Givens said. “Control of blood sugar is a combination of good diet, exercise, and meds if needed.”
Newman Healthcare Associate Dr. Danna K. Stuart shared a list of tips for diabetic foot care:
1. Be proactive in taking care of your diabetes. Keep your blood sugar levels under control and follow your physician’s guidance re: visits and labs.
2. Periodic foot exams are important. Your physician or foot and ankle surgeon should examine your feet on a regular basis to help prevent the foot complications associated with diabetes
3. Inspect your feet daily. You should check for cuts, blisters, redness, swelling or nail problems every day. A magnifying hand mirror can be used to look at the bottom of your feet. Call your doctor if you notice anything.
4. Avoid going barefoot...even at home! Always wear shoes or slippers. You could step on something and get a scratch or cut
5. Check your shoes and feel the inside before wearing. Remember, your feet may not be able to feel a pebble or other foreign object, so always inspect your shoes before putting them on.
6. Use care when bathing your feet. Keep your feet clean by washing them daily with lukewarm, never hot, water—the temperature you would use on a newborn baby. Wash them using a soft washcloth or sponge. Dry by blotting or patting and carefully dry between the toes.
7. Avoid lotions between your toes. A daily moisturizer can be used to keep dry skin from itching or cracking. But don't moisturize between the toes—that could encourage a fungal infection.
8. No “bathroom surgery! Never treat corns or calluses yourself by cutting or using medicated pads. Cut nails carefully, straight across and file the edges. Don’t cut nails too short, as this could lead to ingrown toenails. If you have concerns about your nails, corns or calluses, visit your doctor for appropriate treatment.
9. Socks Matter! Wear clean, dry socks and change them daily. You may consider socks made specifically for patients living with diabetes. These socks have extra cushioning, do not have elastic tops. They are higher than the ankle and are made from fibers that wick moisture away from the skin. If your feet get cold at night, wear socks. Never use a heating pad or a hot water bottle. Keep feet warm and dry. You can even wear antiperspirant on the soles of your feet if you tend to experience excessive sweating of the feet.
10. Do not smoke. Smoking restricts blood flow in your feet which can lead to increased complications.
For more information, visit https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/healthy-feet.html.