People with diabetes can develop many different foot problems, making them more likely to have a foot or leg amputated than other people. Even ordinary problems can get worse and lead to serious complications. The problem? Many people with diabetes have peripheral arterial disease, which reduces blood flow to the feet. Also, many people with diabetes have nerve disease, which reduces sensation. Together, these problems make it easy to get ulcers and infections that may lead to amputation.
The good news is that you can prevent most foot troubles and amputations with regular attention and proper footwear. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), comprehensive foot care can reduce amputation rates by 45 to 85 percent among people with diabetes. The CDC also reported in 2012 that the rate of leg and foot amputations among U.S. adults aged 40 and older with diagnosed diabetes declined by 65 percent between 1996 and 2008, further proving that taking care of your feet—and your overall diabetes management—can have real, life-changing results.
So now you know it’s important to properly take care of your feet. What are a few simple steps you can take each day?
- Check your feet every day. Look at your bare feet for red spots, cuts, swelling and blisters. If you cannot see the bottoms of your feet, use a mirror or ask someone for help.
- See your health care provider right away about foot problems, such as ulcers, calluses or numbness. Ask about prescription shoes that are covered by Medicare and other insurance. Always follow their advice when caring for ulcers or other foot problems.
- If you smoke, quit. Smoking can decrease blood flow to the feet and make wounds heal slowly.
- Wash your feet every day and be sure to dry them carefully, especially between the toes.
- Keep your skin soft and smooth. Rub a thin coat of skin lotion over the tops and bottoms of your feet, but not between your toes.
- If you can see and reach your toenails, trim them across, when needed, and file the edges with an emery board or nail file.
- Never walk barefoot. Wear comfortable shoes and socks that fit well and protect your feet at all times. Check inside your shoes before wearing them. Make sure the lining is smooth and there are no objects inside.
- Protect your feet from hot and cold. Wear shoes at the beach or on hot pavement. Don’t put your feet into hot water. Test water before putting your feet in it, just as you would before bathing a baby. Never use hot water bottles, heating pads or electric blankets. You can burn your feet without realizing it.
- Keep the blood flowing to your feet. Put your feet up when sitting. Wiggle your toes and move your ankles up and down for five minutes, a few times a day. Don’t cross your legs for long periods of time.
- Take care of your diabetes. Work with your health care team to keep your blood glucose in your target range, as this will help prevent all diabetes complications.
By making foot care part of your health routine, you can Stop Diabetes from knocking you off your feet. The American Diabetes Association has many resources available to help.
Please visit diabetes.org/limbaware for more information.