When you have diabetes, you already have a lot to manage. Not only do you need to check your blood sugar daily, you need to watch your diet, try to exercise, see your doctor regularly, and be sure to take your medication. So, it may seem like checking your feet is just another thing to do and not an obvious task for your health. However, daily foot care is one of the best ways to help manage your diabetes and keep ahead of problems.
Statistics show that patients with diabetes have nearly a 35% risk of developing a foot ulcer in their lifetime. Over 50% of those foot ulcers will likely become infected, and 20% of diabetic foot infections will result in amputation. Because diabetic patients often suffer from nerve damage (called peripheral neuropathy), these ulcers can be hard to feel or detect. Performing daily foot exams and having your feet checked periodically by an experienced podiatrist specializing in diabetic foot care can help prevent small problems from turning into serious ones.
Avoid These Common Diabetic Foot Mistakes
It’s important to maintain foot health when you have diabetes. To do that, there are many things to avoid to help ensure you won’t face serious complications later. The following are common diabetic foot mistakes you want to avoid to keep your feet healthy:
- Letting your blood sugar levels get out of control. The most important step in preventing diabetic foot injuries is keeping your blood sugar levels in check. High blood sugar can damage nerve endings, reducing the sensation in your feet. When this happens, you’re not as likely to feel pain or other symptoms and signals that indicate you have a foot ulcer or other foot problem. Make sure you're monitoring your blood sugar and keeping it within the levels recommended by your doctor.
- Walking barefoot or in non-supportive shoes. Walking barefoot or in non-supportive shoes can put extra strain on your feet, leading to a higher risk of developing blisters, sores, and other foot conditions. Make sure you wear supportive shoes that fit properly and provide good arch support. If you have any existing foot problems, consider investing in orthotics designed specifically for your feet.
- Not inspecting your feet regularly. Diabetes can cause nerve damage that makes it difficult to detect pain or discomfort in your feet. That’s why it’s essential to inspect your feet daily for any cuts, blisters, discoloration, or swelling. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact a podiatrist right away.
- Ignoring foot pain. Don’t ignore foot pain, no matter how minor it seems—especially if you have diabetes. Foot pain is often an indication of an ulcer or an infection. Make sure you seek the advice of a podiatrist right away if you experience foot pain or discomfort.
- Not exercising regularly or eating healthy. Regular physical activity helps control blood sugar levels and improve circulation in your lower limbs, and both are essential for keeping diabetic feet healthy. In addition, eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and reducing the amount of sugar and salt in your diet can also improve your foot health.
- Not trimming your toenails straight across. Toenails should be cut straight across rather than rounded or on a slant. This can help prevent ingrown nails. It's also important not to cut them too short since leaving them slightly longer helps protect against injury and infection. If you’re having difficulty cutting your nails, consider getting help from a podiatrist specializing in diabetic foot care.
- Removing corns or calluses at home. Corns and calluses are thickened areas of skin that develop over time due to pressure or friction from improper footwear. Although you may be tempted to remove these yourself with pumice stones or razor blades, this could lead to infection or permanent damage if done incorrectly. If you notice any corns or calluses on your feet, leave them alone until you can visit a professional podiatrist who can help safely remove them without causing further damage.
- Applying moisturizer between your toes. While it is important to moisturize your feet daily to avoid dry skin and cracking, you do not want to moisturize between your toes. Doing so can create a warm, moist environment that could lead to fungal or bacterial infections.
- Soaking your feet in hot water or for long periods. Hot water soaks may feel good when you have sore feet, but it’s best to avoid them if you have diabetes. Even soaking them in lukewarm water isn’t a good idea. When you’re diabetic, your skin is already vulnerable and susceptible to infection, and soaking can make your skin too soft or too dry. It might also open up small cracks in the skin that could allow germs and bacteria to get in. Either can make foot problems worse.
- Smoking. Smoking is especially harmful for patients with diabetes. It’s been linked to an increased risk of foot ulcers and amputations due to its effects on circulation.
- Not calling a podiatrist at the first sign of a problem. It’s critical to call a podiatrist at the first sign of trouble. If you catch a foot problem in its earliest stages, it is easier to treat, and you may avoid more serious complications such as infection.
How a Podiatrist Can Help Care for Diabetic Feet
Diabetes can be a tricky condition to manage, and paying attention to your feet is essential. If you have diabetes, it’s important to know that even minor foot injuries can become serious problems quickly. Consulting with a podiatrist regularly for checkups and advice about how best to take care of yourself is an integral part of managing diabetes.
If you have diabetes and have concerns about your feet, contact Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists for a consultation today. We can evaluate your condition and create a personalized treatment plan based on your specific needs. To request an appointment, please contact our Grapevine or Keller office by filling out our convenient online contact form or calling our office at 817-481-4000.