Treat Your Feet Right
The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) estimates that the average person walks about 115,000 miles in a lifetime (over four times around the equator, if you're counting). With all that walking, your feet go through a lot of wear and tear. For most people, the pain of a blister or cut is a signal to get off your feet and let them heal. But if you have diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage) in your feet, the pain signal is impaired or gone altogether, and you may not notice an injury until you actually see it.
Daily Foot Check
It only takes a minute to check your feet for signs of abrasions, blisters, or other problems, and it could save you serious medical problems down the road. Make it a part of your daily routine, either as you get dressed for the day, at shower time, or as you get ready for bed. Before you know it, it will become a healthy habit.
You should give your entire foot the once-over, and check between your toes. If you have flexibility and/or vision problems and have trouble seeing everything adequately, ask a family member for help. A flexible, magnified mirror can help you see those hard-to-reach spots.
My twelve-year-old daughter has diabetes. Do we really have to worry about her feet at such a young age?
While children and teens are less likely than adults are to develop foot problems, proper foot care is a good habit to get into early. As children grow older, nerve and circulatory impairment will become a bigger risk. In general, people with type 2 diabetes are at greater risk for foot complications.
Blisters, Corns, and Calluses
If you do find any blisters, red spots, or cuts, clean the surrounding skin and apply a bandage immediately. Do not pop or break blisters, as it will increase your risk of infection. Keep a close eye on the wounds and replace the bandage regularly. If they start to get worse, exhibit signs of infection (like pus, redness and warmth, or odor), or don't look as if they are healing within a day or so, call your doctor immediately for further instruction.
Keep your feet moisturized to avoid skin fissures or cracks caused by dryness. Do not apply lotion between the toes, as it can breed fungal growth or infection. Instead, sprinkle baby or talcum powder to keep these areas dry. Peripheral neuropathy can cause a 10 percent decrease in skin moisture in the feet, so if you have any degree of PN, take extra care to use skin cream regularly.
If you develop corns or calluses, you're better off letting your podiatrist treat them. If you have PN, do not try to remove corns or calluses with cutting implements or chemical treatments on your own. A pumice stone may be used only with your doctor's approval.
If you must soak in a tub or footbath, only use lukewarm water and make it brief. If you have neuropathy, you could unknowingly burn yourself. When you're done, dry your feet thoroughly with a towel, paying special attention to between your toes. Soaking is never recommended if you have an ulcer or foot wound.
To prevent ingrown toenails, clip your nails straight across. Don't cut too close to the skin line to avoid an accidental slice into your skin. You can smooth out any sharp corners with an emery board. Thick or discolored toenails should be checked out by your podiatrist, as they could be a sign of a fungal infection.
If you have mobility problems and have difficulty reaching your feet, get assistance. You can also ask your podiatrist to clip your toenails at your next visit.