Diabetic Foot Care
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Diabetic foot care is a routine you do each day to protect your feet. Diabetes increases your risk of foot ulcers (wounds). Long-term high blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels and nerves in your legs and feet. Foot care is needed to prevent serious problems, such as an infection or amputation.
Take your medicine as directed. Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Follow up with your primary healthcare provider or specialist as directed:
You will need to have your feet checked at least once a year. Caregivers may need to see you more often if you have nerve damage, foot deformities, or ulcers. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
Check your blood sugar level:
Check your blood sugar level as often as your primary healthcare provider tells you to. He will tell you what your blood sugar level should be. You may need to check at least 3 times each day. Keep a record of your results with the date and time that you checked them. Bring the record to all follow-up visits. Caregivers may use the record to make changes to your medicine, food, or exercise schedules.
- Check your feet: Look at your whole foot, including the bottom, and between and under your toes. Check each day for wounds, corns, and calluses (thick areas of dead, dry skin). The skin on your feet may be shiny, tight, or darker than normal. Your feet may also be cold and pale. Feel your feet by running your hands along the tops, bottoms, sides, and between your toes. Redness, swelling, and warmth are signs of blood flow problems that can lead to a foot ulcer. Do not try to remove corns or calluses yourself.
- Wash and dry your feet carefully: Wash your feet each day with soap and warm water. Do not use hot water, because this can injure your foot. Dry your feet gently with a towel after you wash them. Dry between and under your toes.
- Moisturize your feet: Use lotion or a moisturizer after you wash and dry your feet. Do not put lotion or moisturizer between your toes. Ask your primary healthcare provider what to use.
- Cut your toenails correctly: File or cut your toenails straight across. Use a soft brush to clean around your toenails. If your toenails are very thick, you may need to have a caregiver or specialist cut them.
- Protect your feet: Do not walk barefoot or wear your shoes without socks. Check your shoes for rocks or other objects that can hurt your feet. Wear cotton socks to help keep your feet dry. Wear socks without toe seams, or wear them with the seams inside out. Change your socks each day. Do not wear socks that are dirty or damp.
Wear proper shoes:
- Wear shoes that do not rub against any area of your foot. Your shoes should be ½ to ¾ inch (1 to 2 centimeters) longer than your foot. Your shoes should also have extra space around the widest part of your foot. Walking or athletic shoes with laces or straps that adjust are best. Ask your specialist or primary healthcare provider for help in choosing shoes that fit you best.
- Your specialist or primary healthcare provider may order you special footwear to help take pressure off your feet. Your primary healthcare provider may give you insoles (cushions) to place inside your shoes. You may be given shoes or casts to decrease your risk for foot ulcers.
Your specialist or primary healthcare provider may suggest an exercise plan to prevent problems with your feet. You may need to change your plan if you have a foot ulcer so you do not make it worse.
Walking aids take pressure off your feet. Examples are canes, crutches, walkers, and wheelchairs. Ask for more information about walking aids.
Your dietitian will help you create a meal plan that works for you. You may need to change the plan to help a foot ulcer heal.
If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Smoking can worsen the problems that can occur with diabetes, such as poor blood flow to your feet. Ask your primary healthcare provider for more information about how to stop smoking if you are having trouble quitting.
Contact your primary healthcare provider or specialist if:
- Your blood sugar level is higher or lower than caregivers have told you it should be.
- You see blisters, cuts, scratches, calluses, or sores on your foot.
- You have a wound on your foot that gets bigger, deeper, or does not heal.
- Your toenails become thick, curled, or look yellow.
- You find it hard to check your feet because your vision is poor.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Return to the emergency department if:
- Your feet become numb, weak, or hard to move.
- You have pus draining from a sore on your foot.
- Your feet become red, warm, and swollen.
- You have a fever.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.