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Diabetes and Foot Care

Why should I worry about my feet?

People with diabetes can often have problems with their feet. Loss of feeling in your feet or coldness, numbness, pain, blisters or sores may be signs that your diabetes is out of control. People with diabetes who get corns, calluses and bunions have an increased risk for getting foot ulcers (very serious, deep sores). Infection in these ulcers can lead to hospitalization and even amputation of a foot.

How should I care for my feet to avoid foot problems?

Careful control of your diabetes is the key to avoiding foot problems. Be sure to follow your doctor's advice on diet, exercise and medications. Here are some other things you can do:

Look at your feet daily. Call your doctor at the very first sign of redness, swelling, infection, prolonged pain, numbness or tingling in any part of a foot.

Wash your feet every day in lukewarm water (check the water temperature with your hand or elbow first) and mild soap; use only a washcloth or a very soft brush.

Dry your feet well, especially between the toes. Use a soft towel and blot gently; don't rub.

Keep the skin of your feet smooth by applying a cream or lanolin lotion, especially on the heels.

If your feet sweat easily, keep them dry by dusting them with non- medicated powder before putting on shoes and stockings.

Wear well-padded socks or stockings that are not wrinkled and that are 1/2 inch longer than your longest toe. Don't wear stretch socks, nylon socks or socks with an elastic band or garter at the top. Don't wear socks with inside seams.

When you buy new shoes, choose shoes made of soft leather. They should not fit tightly anywhere. If you've had foot problems before because of shoes that didn't fit well, you may want to be fitted for a custom-molded shoe with a high toe box. Try on shoes at the end of the day, when your feet are a little swollen, to get the best fit.

Break in new shoes slowly and carefully. Have at least 2 pairs of shoes so you can wear each pair every other day.

Look inside your shoes every day for things like gravel or torn linings. These things could damage your foot.

Loosen your blanket at the foot of the bed so it won't press on your toes or heels, or on the bony spots on your feet.

Keep your feet warm and avoid being outside when it's very hot or very cold.

Have your doctor look at your feet at every office visit (at least one time every year) or whenever you notice anything that seems wrong.

What things should I avoid in caring for my feet?

Foot care is important for people with diabetes. Here are some things you should avoid when caring for your feet:

Don't use any instruments on your feet (except nail clippers) without your doctor's advice.

Don't cut calluses or corns, or use medicine to remove them, unless your doctor tells you its okay.

Don't soak your feet in water.

Don't use hot water, a heating pad or a massaging machine on your feet.

Don't place your feet against hot surfaces.

Don't go barefooted.

Don't use adhesive tape or chemicals on the skin of your feet.

Don't put inserts or pads in your shoes without your doctor's advice.

Don't walk in wet shoes.

Don't expose your feet to cold weather.

Don't wear sandals or shoes with cut-outs in the leather.

Don't wear shoes that are uncomfortable or that rub, cause a blister or cut into your feet.

Don't wear your shoes without socks.

Don't use any tobacco products--they affect blood flow in ways that are especially dangerous to people with diabetes.