For individuals with diabetes, a sore on the foot, bug bite or blister could lead to a difficult infection or skin ulcer that could result in an amputation. Risks for foot ulcers increase 25% over an individual’s lifetime. Diabetic peripheral neuropathy compounds the severity of sores and skin ulcers through high blood sugar and poor circulation, which hampers the body’s ability to heal rapidly.
Additionally, diabetic peripheral neuropathy interferes with protective skin sensations that could warn you of potential injury. Fortunately, there are ways to protect your feet, signs that medical attention may be required, and care tips.
How to Protect Your Feet and Toes
When it comes to foot care, the best offense is a good defense. Taking proper steps to protect your feet can help you avoid developing sores and skin ulcers in the first place. Here are a few proactive steps you can take to protect your feet and toes.
Daily Foot Checks
Conducting detailed daily checks of your feet and toes can help catch injuries early and prevent infection. In a sitting position, remove your shoes and socks. Examine the top, bottom and between toes on both feet.
Here are some concerns to look out for:
- Changes in temperature (hot or cold) or color (pale, green, or blue)
- Dry or cracking skin
- Athlete’s foot
- Blisters, sores or cuts
- Ingrown toenails or spots where shoes have rubbed the skin
- Calluses and corns
Daily checks are necessary, even in the absence of pain or discomfort. Because of diabetic neuropathy, pain may not be present until there is already an infection.
Caring for Your Feet and Toenails
Taking proper daily care of your feet and toenails will help reduce the risks of sores, ulcers and other potentially damaging symptoms.
Here are a few ways you can care for your feet and toenails:
- Wash feet and toes in lukewarm water. Hot water is discouraged because it increases the potential for burns. Use your hand or forearm to check the water temperature.
- Thoroughly dry your feet, being sure to get in between the toes, with a plush, soft towel.
- Keep your feet moisturized daily. Find a lotion that prevents foot dryness and apply it to the top and bottom of your feet. Do not put any lotion between your toes as it can increase the risk of infections and rashes like athlete’s foot.
- Trim your toenails regularly, cutting straight across and filing down any edges. However, do not round the corners with the nail file, as this can increase your risk of ingrown toenails. If you cannot cut your nails, a foot specialist can trim your nails for you.
Best Shoes and Socks to Wear
Picking the right socks and shoes is just as important as maintaining proper hygiene and care of your feet and toenails. Choose shoes and socks that are sensible and foot-friendly.
How to Choose the Best Shoes
- Do not wear flip-flops or high heels; go sockless with shoes or go barefoot.
- Get your feet measured by staff at a shoe store to ensure proper fit. If there is a size difference, be sure to choose the size according to whichever foot is largest.
- Avoid shoes that need to be broken in. Natural fibers and leather are best.
- Be sure to choose comfortable shoes.
- Always wear shoes, except when bathing or in bed.
- If at the beach or pool, water shoes are best.
- Check your shoes daily—inside and out—for any signs of damage or debris that could harm your feet.
- A podiatrist can fit you with orthotics and shoe inserts to offer extra support.
How to Choose the Best Socks
- Choose socks that are comfortable and won’t cause chaffing.
- Socks should be seamless to avoid potential rubbing and breaking of the skin.
- Socks should be changed daily or more frequently if sweaty.
- Throw away socks that are damaged.
Get Regular Foot Exams
Part of maintaining foot health is going to your health practitioner for regular comprehensive foot exams.
During a foot exam, remove your socks and shoes. Your health practitioner will look for the following problems:
- Nerve damage
- Changes in the skin on your foot
- Deformities (bunions, hammer toes, etc.)
- Circulation issues
Your doctor will likely inquire about your foot health practices, any signs and symptoms you might be experiencing and your footwear. It is possible that more frequent visits may be necessary and may be recommended by your physician.
Both the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American Diabetes Association recommend exams in the following cadence:
- 3-6 months if you’re suffering from loss of protective foot sensations.
- 2-3 months if you suffer from loss of protective foot sensations and peripheral artery disease.
- 1-2 months if you’ve had an amputation or have a history of foot ulcers and sores.
There are other areas that can aid in protecting your feet and toes, like controlling your blood sugar or avoiding impact exercises. Talk with your doctor if you have sustained any damage to your feet or any of the mentioned issues. Also, consult a physician on foot care, footwear and activities that may jeopardize the health of your feet.
WinSanTor is a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on the discovery and development of treatments for peripheral neuropathies. We believe in creating a solution that works and brings relief to millions that are struggling with this disease. Learn more about our company, our drug and subscribe to our newsletter.