Proper Foot Care is Critical for Anyone with Diabetes
Diabetes can literally knock you off your feet. High blood sugar levels
associated with the disease can destroy the body’s small vessels
and damage nerves, raising the risk for foot problems. April is Foot Health
Awareness Month, a good time to learn about some of the steps you can
take to protect your feet.
“Diabetes affects the small blood vessels that supply the skin and
nerves on the feet,” explained Dr. Prasad Katta, a local endocrinologist
and member of the Washington Hospital medical staff. “Damage to
the nerves can make it harder to feel sores and other issues with your
feet. The reduced blood flow can make it more difficult to heal an injury
or fight off an infection.”
Nerve damage from diabetes is called diabetic neuropathy. According to
the American Diabetes Association, about half of all people with diabetes
have some form of nerve damage. It is more common in those who have had
the disease for a number of years.
“It is most common 10 to 15 years after you have been diagnosed with
diabetes,” Dr. Katta said. “That’s why it’s so
critical to keep your blood sugar under control. As time goes by, it causes
more and more damage.”
Common foot problems include corns, calluses, blisters, ingrown toenails,
bunions, plantar warts, hammertoes, dry and cracked skin, and athlete’s
foot. People with diabetes are at much greater risk of developing serious
infections from these common foot problems due to the neuropathy and poor
If you can’t feel a crack or ingrown toenail on your foot because
of neuropathy, it could get worse and become infected. The muscles of
the foot may not function well because the nerves that make them move
properly are damaged. This could cause the foot to not align properly
and create too much pressure in one area of the foot, causing sores or
According to Dr. Katta, about 10 percent of people with diabetes will develop
foot ulcers or sores. People with diabetes are also at much higher risk
of foot amputations due to serious infections and other problems.
“The number one way to prevent foot problems is to keep your blood
sugar level under control,” Dr. Katta stressed. “But you also
need to take good care of your feet.”
He offered the following tips for proper foot care:
Consult with a podiatrist for an annual foot check up. You may also need to have a foot ultrasound to determine whether enough
blood is flowing into your feet and a neurological exam to see how much
sensation there is in your feet.
Examine your feet every day. Check the top and bottoms of your feet for dry, cracked skin, blisters,
ingrown toenails, corns, calluses, cuts, scratches, and sores. Look for
redness and increased warmth or tenderness when touching your foot.
Wash and dry your feet daily. Use warm water and mild soap. Pat the skin dry rather than rubbing it.
After washing, use lotion on the bottom of your feet to prevent cracking.
Take good care of your toenails. It’s best to cut your toenails after bathing, when they are soft
and easy to cut. Cut them straight across and then smooth them with a
nail file. Avoid cutting into the corners of your toes.
Protect your feet. Always wear comfortable shoes and never go barefoot, even around the house.
Wear slippers or shoes with socks. Make sure your shoes fit properly.
Avoid shoes with high heels and pointed toes as well as open-toed shoes
and sandals because they increase your risk of injury and possible infection.
Change your socks daily. Before putting on your shoes, make sure there
are no foreign objects in them or rough areas that will rub your feet.
Ulcers and other sores that aren’t healing properly may need to be
treated at the Washington Center for Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine.
The professional staff at the center is highly trained in the specialized
comprehensive care of problem wounds, using the most up-to-date approaches
in the science of wound care.
“If you discover a sore on your foot or have an ingrown toenail or
other problem with your feet, consult with your physician,” Dr.
Katta added. “It’s important to get these issues treated before
they get worse. It may be that you need antibiotics for an infected wound
or specialized care for a foot sore. You have to stay on top of your feet
and pay close attention to them to avoid serious problems.”
For more information about programs and services at Washington Hospital
that can help you manage your diabetes, visit www.whhs.com/diabetes. To
learn about the Washington Center for Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine,