According to the American Diabetes Association, about 15.7 million people (5.9 percent of the United States population) have diabetes. Nerve damage (also called neuropathy) affects about 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes and is a major complication that may cause diabetics to lose feeling in their feet or hands.
Foot problems are a big risk in diabetics. Diabetics must constantly monitor their feet or face severe consequences, including amputation.
With a diabetic foot, a wound as small as a blister from wearing a shoe that's too tight can cause a lot of damage. Diabetes can decrease blood flow and your ability to fight off infection, so simple injuries or cuts can be at risk for developing severe infections. If you develop a foot wound that is not healing, you should have it evaluated by your podiatrist immediately. If you have diabetes, you should inspect your feet every day. Look for puncture wounds, bruises, pressure areas, redness, warmth, blisters, ulcers, scratches, cuts and nail problems. Get someone to help you, or use a mirror.
Aside from slowly healing wounds and severe foot infections, diabetes can also increase your risk of developing a progressive deformity of the foot called Charcot (pronounced "sharko") foot. This is more common with diabetes when a person develops numbness or neuropathy in their feet. If you notice the foot is changing shape, becoming red or swollen, with our without pain this may be related to Charcot foot and you should see a podiatrist immediately.
Here is some basic advice for taking care of your feet:
• Always keep your feet warm.
• Don't get your feet wet in snow or rain.
• Don't warm your feet with heating pads, heaters, or hot water-this often leads to severe burns that are difficult to heal and may lead to serious infection.
• Don't smoke or sit cross-legged. Both decrease blood supply to your feet.
• Don't soak your feet.
• Trim your toenails straight across. Avoid cutting the corners. Use a nail file or emery board. If you find an ingrown toenail, contact our office. If you cannot feel your feet or see your feet, you should not trim your toenails yourself.
• Use quality lotion to keep the skin of your feet soft and moist, but don't put any lotion between your toes.
• Wash your feet every day with mild soap and warm water.
• Wear warm socks and shoes in winter.
• When drying your feet, pat each foot with a towel and be careful between your toes.
• Buy shoes that are comfortable when you buy them-if they aren't comfortable at first they may lead to blisters or calluses as you try to "break them in." Ensure that your shoe is fitted by a professional at a shoe store and do not purchase shoes by size alone-sizes vary between manufacturers and your foot may increase in size over time. Avoid pointed-toe styles and high heels. Try to get shoes made with leather upper material and deep toe boxes. Wear new shoes for only two hours or less at a time. Don't wear the same pair everyday. Inspect the inside of each shoe before putting it on. Don't lace your shoes too tightly or loosely.
• Choose socks and stockings carefully. Wear clean, dry socks every day. Avoid socks with holes or wrinkles or prominent seams. Specialty "diabetic socks" can be purchased, but should meet these same recommendations and should be comfortable.