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Washington Hospital Endocinologist Offers Tips During Foot Health Awareness Month

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 blood flow.

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 other issues.

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.

Preventing 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 To learn about the Washington Center for Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine, visit