During National Diabetes Month, the American Board of Podiatric Medicine (ABPM) encourages people with diabetes to “Save Your Soles” by taking steps toward better foot health. Nerve damage from diabetes, also known as diabetic neuropathy, can cause feet to lose feeling. Injuries can go unnoticed, which is dangerous because untreated injuries can lead to infection. While up to 50% of patients have no symptoms, neuropathy may cause pain, burning, tingling, and/or numbness in your feet.
“Minor foot issues, such as an ingrown toenail or small cut, can lead to bigger problems for people with diabetes,” said Dr. Sari Priesand, ABPM-certified podiatrist and fellow at Michigan Medicine. “They may not notice that something is wrong until the situation is serious, or there may be no symptoms.”
People with diabetes may also have poor circulation, which can slow the healing process. So infections can worsen, and sometimes, result in ulcers or even the need for amputation. In 2014, approximately 108,000 U.S. adults had diabetes-related amputations.
“Diabetes-related foot issues can greatly reduce quality of life,” said Dr. Priesand. “However, by properly managing your diabetes, making foot care part of your daily routine, and getting checkups, most diabetic foot issues can be prevented.”
The ABPM recommends these steps to keep your feet as healthy as possible:
- Get checkups. See an ABPM-certified podiatrist at least once a year for a diabetic foot assessment and risk assessment. Depending on your condition and risk factors, you may need to see your podiatrist more often.
- Check your feet daily. Wash your feet every day and dry them thoroughly. Check for blisters, cracks, redness or sores. If you are unable to check your own feet, use a handheld mirror, or ask a friend or family member to help.
- Apply a light coating of petroleum jelly or lotion to the bottom of your feet to help prevent skin cracking. However, don’t put it between the toes because it can cause infection.
- Keep your toes dry. Apply cornstarch or powder between your toes to keep the skin dry.
- Stop smoking. Smoking restricts blood flow to the skin, which impairs wound healing. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Web site for more information about smoking and resources to help you quit.
- Get help. Don’t remove callouses, bunions, corns, or warts by yourself. Get assistance from an ABPM-certified podiatrist.
- Protect your feet.
- Always wear shoes or slippers.
- Pick shoes that are comfortable, have a closed-toe and fit well. If you have difficulty finding shoes that fit correctly, talk to your doctor or podiatrist about prescription diabetic shoes.
- Avoid pointy shoes.
- Trim your toenails straight across, and try not to cut them too short.
- Never soak your feet.