"Anyone with diabetes needs to have a daily protocol for foot inspection," advises Dr. Shlonsky. Look carefully at all the pressure areas of your feet and between your toes. “Inspect for any breaks in the skin, discharge, changes in color, changes in odor, and painful corns or calluses," he says. "Also inspect your socks for any stains and your shoes for any stones or rough edges." If you have trouble seeing your feet closely, ask a friend or family member to help with your diabetic foot care. Let your doctor know about any changes you find.
Pick the Right Footwear:
When you have diabetes, winter cold and dampness combined with decreased circulation can increase your risk for a foot ulcer. Make sure winter shoes and boots provide warmth, protection from snow and ice, and proper padding, and that they are roomy enough not to constrict blood flow to your feet. Avoid man-made shoe or boot materials that lock in moisture, and don't forget about choosing the right socks: "Wool socks provide protection and warmth," says Shlonsky. "You might also consider polypropylene stockings under your socks to wick away moisture."
Sloshing through wet snow or icy puddles can lead to dangerously damp feet. Moisture that collects between your socks and your feet and between your toes for too long can invite unwanted bacteria to gather. When your feet get wet from being outside or bathing, you need to dry them carefully and gently. "Inspect your feet for areas that are pale in color, which could mean too much saturation," Shlonsky says. "Make sure to dry carefully and completely, including between your toes." Also, he says, remember to change out of wet socks as soon as possible .
Moisturizing Is a Must:
Diabetes nerve damage and poor circulation can cause decreased function of the moisturizing glands of your feet. "Dry winter heat, like sitting in the car with the heater blasting at your feet, can make dryness worse and lead to skin break-down," says Shlonsky. "Watch out for red, shiny areas when you do your daily inspection." Ask your doctor to recommend a good moisturizer for diabetes foot care, and use it after bathing your feet every day, but avoid leaving too much moisturizer between your toes.
Trim Your Toenails:
Untrimmed or infected toenails are a frequent cause of infections and ulcers. Ask your diabetes doctor how to trim your toenails correctly. You can soak your feet first to soften the nails and then cut them straight across. If you have trouble trimming your nails, get professional help. "Medicare may cover nail care as part of diabetic foot care if you have a history of problems caused by nails," advises Shlonsky. "Nails that are thick, crumbly, or discolored may need professional care."
Nerve damage in your feet caused by diabetes can make keeping them warm in winter risky. Be careful when using electric blankets, hot soaks, and heating pads or warming your feet on a radiator. Always check water temperature with your hands or a bath thermometer before you stick your feet in. "A second- or third-degree burn can cause a major foot problem,” says Shlonsky. “Let your doctor know about any foot problem as soon as possible. Early treatment is important when you have diabetes."
Keeping your diabetes under good control is an important part of diabetic foot care. "Your feet absorb a lot of the daily wear and tear of your body," Shlonsky explains. "They are one of the first places poor diabetic control will show up." Work with your doctor to control your sugar and be sure to watch your diet, maintain your weight, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking. Your feet will thank you.