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Diabetic Foot Care

Diabetes has become an epidemic in America. According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 15 million people suffer from this disease. Of those, as many as 70 percent have complications associated with their extremities, primarily their feet.

The disease can cause reduced blood flow to the feet, depriving them of oxygen and nutrients. This makes it more difficult for blisters, sores, and cuts to heal. Diabetic nerve damage called peripheral neuropathy can cause numbness in your feet. Diabetes is the number one cause of lower limb amputations in the United States, with over half of amputations performed caused by the disease.

As frightening as this sounds, serious foot problems are not an inevitable part of having diabetes. It is estimated that at least half of the amputations related to diabetes that take place each year could be prevented through proper care of the feet.

Check feet daily. Look at your feet every day to check for cuts, sores, blisters, redness, calluses, or other problems. This is even more important if you have nerve damage or poor blood flow. Look over both feet carefully every day, and be sure you check between all of your toes because blisters and infections can start between there.

Wash with warm water. Wash both of your feet briefly each day with warm water. Make sure the water is not too hot by testing the temperature with your elbow. Do not soak your feet, and dry your feet well, especially between your toes.

Make sure your shoes fit well. If you have diabetes, good shoes are an investment worth making. Even the slightest tightness or rubbing in the wrong place can cause a blister that could turn into a sore that wonít heal. Shop for shoes at the end of the day when your feet are bigger, and before buying or putting on shoes, check inside for rough edges or other irregularities that could hurt your feet. When you get new shoes, break them in gradually by wearing them for short periods of time Ė an hour or two a day.

No bare feet. Always wear shoes or slippers, and always wear socks with your shoes. Direct contact with leather, plastics, and manmade shoe materials can irritate your skin and quickly bring on blisters.

Stay soft - but dry. High glucose levels can cause dry and cracked skin. This means double trouble for the feet. It makes it easier for bacteria to get under the skin, and harder for infections to heal. Use a small amount of skin lotion daily, but be sure to rub it in well. You want your feet to be dry, not damp or sticky, and you donít want to get lotion in between your toes.

Practice foot maintenance. File corns and calluses gently with an emery board or pumice stone after your bath or shower, when skin is softer. Keep your toenails trimmed and filed smooth to avoid ingrown toenails. It is best to cut them to the shape of the toe and not too short, and then to file the edges with an emery board.

Fix problems. If you have bunions (the big toe slants sharply in toward your other toes, with a big bump on the knuckle of your big toe), corns (spots of thick, rough skin on the toes), or hammertoes (buckled-under toe), these problems need to be addressed with a foot specialist. All of these problems make it difficult for shoes to fit properly, which can lead to blisters and other problems.

The underlying message of all these recommendations is to be extra vigilant about your feet if you have diabetes. This will not only help you prevent problems, but also help you notice any changes at an earlier, more treatable stage. It is also also important to talk to your doctor if you have any concerns, regardless of how minor it may seem.


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