We need to look after our feet no matter what, whether we have a health problem or not. But, having diabetes can put you at greater risk of experiencing a whole host of foot problems. Diabetes can affect the feet in various ways, including reducing the blood flow to the feet which can affect the wound healing process and our ability to resist infection. Diabetes may cause nerve damage which can cause a loss of sensation in the feet.
Because of the aforementioned problems, it is vital you check inside shoes and slippers before putting them on as there could easily be a stone or another foreign object inside. You may not feel it, resulting potentially in a sore or a blister developing, thus increasing the likelihood of infection or a non-healing wound, hence leading to even further complications.
However, the good news is, there are various ways to have good foot health with diabetes, by looking after yourself.
I work with various people who have diabetes, with this experience having been gained through both of my roles as a Podiatrist and a Nurse. I recommend the following tips for ways to protect your feet.
Tip 1- check your feet daily.
It is vital to check your feet every day for blisters, swelling, cuts, and red spots - these should be observed and if concerned, you must seek help, especially if they aren't healing. If checking the bottom of your feet is a struggle, try using a mirror, otherwise ask a family member to assist where possible.
You could also try running your fingers over the bottom of your feet for hard skin or areas which feel sore. If you feel pain or notice any damage to the skin, contact me to arrange an appointment. Prevention is best.
Tip 2 - Wash your feet regularly. Dry them well.
Get into the routine of washing your feet daily to keep them nice and clean. Use warm (never hot), soapy water and make sure you get in between your toes too. Use a soft cloth or sponge. If you have problems bending down or you have poor balance, don’t struggle, you could try using a long-handled shower brush or where possible get someone to assist.
Your feet need to be dried thoroughly, taking particular care between the toes. This may help to prevent foot problems such as Athlete’s foot – fungal infections can develop between the toes.
Tip 3 - Moisturise your feet.
Feet should be moisturised daily to prevent problems. Moisturiser can keep any dry skin from cracking or itching, thus preventing discomfort. Feet especially need looking after during the Winter months. The whole foot can be moisturised but make sure to miss between the toes as otherwise a fungal inflection may develop.
The moisturiser doesn’t have to be an expensive brand.
Tip 4 - Take good care of your toenails.
Any concerns about your toenails then seek help. Nails should always be cut straight across, never at an angle or down the edges. Incorrect nail cutting can lead to ingrowing toenails. Regular cutting is recommended and they should never be trimmed too short. Care should be taken as piercing the skin could lead to other injuries, especially when someone has diabetes.
Get in touch if you have problems seeing or reaching your toenails. Maybe they are too hard for you to cut or you have trouble trimming them? If you have poor circulation or reduced sensation in your feet, don’t hesitate to make contact for regular trimming and a nice pamper :o)
Tip 5 - change socks daily and wear suitable footwear.
Socks should be changed daily and they should be clean and dry. It’s a good idea if you experience cold feet on an evening to wear socks in bed, don’t use anything such as a hot water bottle to warm your feet up.
There are socks out there which are specifically tailored towards people with diabetes, these have no elastic tops, extra cushioning, etc.
Wear warm, thick socks, especially during the winter.
Make sure you don’t walk around with no shoes or slippers on. If you do this, you are putting yourself at risk of potentially stepping on something and scratching or cutting your feet.
Wear suitable warm footwear. Wearing good fitting shoes can help to keep your feet healthy. Appropriate footwear should be worn, this is something a Podiatrist like myself can advise on. But, as a guideline, it’s an idea to purchase shoes which are broad fitting, are flat or have a low heel, have a rounded toe area and don’t slide around.
Tip 6 - get your feet checked annually.
Foot problems may be prevented by getting your feet checked at your annual review. Obviously ensure you are seen sooner by a professional if you have any concerns. At a diabetic foot assessment with my clients I check the circulation in the feet and also the sensation. I assess the feet for any problems, e.g., corns, callus, etc.
Tip 7 - change your lifestyle.
It’s an idea to quit smoking. Smoking restricts the blood flow in your feet, thus putting you more at risk of amputation.
Get exercising to keep that blood flowing. When we keep our body moving, the blood flows down to our feet. Get up, stretch regularly, rotate feet and ankles to keep blood flowing. See my other blog post 'Keeping fit and your feet. Get ready for those lovely spring time walks :)' for some tips re walking - here.
Keep alcohol intake at moderate levels.
Eat healthily to try maintain a healthy weight. See my other blog post 'Foot health and nutrition – you are what you eat!' for some tips re food for health - here.
Make sure you keep your blood sugar levels under control as this can help to prevent damage to your feet and prevent things from getting worse.
If you need any help to make these changes, bear in mind there are organisations out there to help, e.g., Live Life Well who are based in Sunderland - http://www.livelifewell.org.uk/
Tip 8 - Tackle sweaty feet.
If you are particularly prone to sweaty feet, consider using an antiperspirant deodorant on your feet, especially the soles. Again, remember to change your socks daily and your shoes just as regular.
There could be various reasons for sweaty feet, one in particular could be due to Athlete's foot which can produce foot odour, book in an appointment with a Podiatrist if you think you have this. Make sure your wash your feet regularly too, and dry them thoroughly.
Tip 9 - Avoid using corn plasters.
Corn plasters are recommended not to be used as they could damage your skin. Particularly if you have a loss of sensation in your feet, you may not feel the damage occurring. Make an appointment with a podiatrist who can treat the corn and advise any possible prevention.
Any queries or concerns, or if you would like to make an appointment, please contact me here.
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