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Special foot care for diabetes

Published On: Dec 04 2012 12:01:56 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 18 2012 11:09:44 AM CST
Elderly couple walking

By Barbara Floria, Pure Matters

“Foot wounds are the most common diabetes-related cause for hospitalization," says David G. Armstrong, D.P.M., Ph.D., a podiatric surgeon in Chicago. Foot wounds in a person with diabetes can also lead to amputation, he says.

“Fortunately, people with this disease often can prevent these life-threatening wounds with daily foot examinations,” Dr. Armstrong says.

Here's what you can do to help prevent foot problems:

  • Take care of your diabetes. Work with your health care team to keep your blood glucose in your target range.
  • Look over your feet daily. Check for sores, cuts, bruises, and toenail changes. Use a mirror to look under your feet if you need to. “Call or see your health care provider if you have cuts or breaks in the skin, have an ingrown nail or if your foot changes color or shape, or becomes less sensitive,” Dr. Armstrong says. “See your foot-care specialist immediately if you detect a new lesion or if your foot becomes swollen, red, or painful.”
  • Ask your doctor about personal dermal thermometers for your feet. “These newly available devices are like glucose monitors for the feet,” says Dr. Armstrong. “People can change their activity by checking their skin temperature just as they dose their insulin by checking their glucose.”
  • Wash your feet daily. Use a mild soap and lukewarm water, and dry your feet very carefully, especially between the toes. Use talcum powder to dust your feet to further reduce moisture. If the skin is dry, use a moisturizer -- but not between the toes.
  • Wear shoes and socks at all times. Never walk barefoot, even in your home. Wear comfortable shoes that fit well and protect your feet. Check inside your shoes before wearing them to make sure the lining is smooth, and there are no objects inside. If your doctor tells you you’re at high risk, he or she may recommend a specific shoe type.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking can cause decreased blood flow to the feet and make wounds heal slowly. Many smokers with diabetes need amputations.

Finally, “ask your doctor to check your feet every time you go for a visit,” Dr. Armstrong says. “The potential for foot problems leading to major health issues is significant. Doing everything you can to prevent them is as important as monitoring your glucose.”

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