Expert Footcare Tips to Keep Diabetes Complications at Bay
If you’re like most people, you probably don’t consider your feet to be especially delicate or fragile. If anything, we tend to think of them as the opposite – tough, sturdy and capable of withstanding a fair amount of abuse. But if you’re living with diabetes, you need to treat your feet with extra TLC if you want to avoid a whole range of unpleasant foot-related complications.
We asked podiatrist Lauren Robinson for her top tips on how to keep your feet in great condition and help keep complications in check.
The seven step expert guide to footcare
Wash daily – and dry well!
We all bathe or shower daily but make sure you pay special attention to your feet and clean between your toes.
“This will help to prevent fungal infections. After washing, dry your feet thoroughly with a towel as moisture residue can be a breeding ground for bacteria, especially in those nice warm spots between your toes.“If you can’t quite reach your feet properly, it’s worth investing in a long-handled toe dryer to do the job for you,” Lauren suggested.
Check both feet daily for any cuts, cracks, blisters or swelling. “Diabetes lowers the immune system and makes it harder for wounds to heal, a minor cut can quickly escalate into a nasty infection,” she said.
Treat any wounds fast.
“If you’ve been assessed by your podiatrist as being at low risk of developing foot complications, it’s fine to manage any minor cuts or scratches yourself – just keep a bottle of antiseptic solution handy and keep the area covered and clean until it has completely healed. However, if you’re a high-risk patient and notice any wounds developing, it’s best to see your GP who can dress the area and provide a prescription for antibiotics if necessary.”
Keep your feet hydrated.
“Rough, dry skin is prone to cracking and splitting – keep your feet and especially your heels well moisturised with a fragrance-free skin cream. Avoid pharmacy skin softening balms or cracked heel treatments, however, as these can contain salicylic acid – this has been known to irritate and inflame the feet in some cases which can lead to infection.”
Trim your toenails.
“Keeping your toenails neatly clipped is an absolute must. It’s easy for long nails to dig into the neighbouring toes and create sores, particularly if you’re wearing enclosed shoes which compress the toes together. You also need to avoid clipping them too short as this can lead to ingrown toenails – another unpleasant and painful condition that is particularly problematic for people with diabetes. “Sadly, this also means that pedicures are now out – because the instruments used in beauty salons aren’t sterilised, there’s always the risk that you could end up with an infection or skin abrasions around the edge of the nail from an overenthusiastic filing session,” Lauren advised.
Remove calluses and corns.
“Calluses and corns are effectively areas of dead skin that have been formed by excess pressure on an area, such as the rubbing of a shoe against your toe. Left untreated there’s a risk they can break down the skin, leading to ulceration and open sores. “Low-risk individuals can simply use a foot file at home to prevent dead skin from building up, but if you’re considered high risk or don’t have the mobility to do it yourself, your podiatrist can remove them for you.”
Keep your shoes dry.
“Bacteria love nothing more than a warm, damp environment in which to grow – which is why sweaty shoes are teeming with them. Never wear shoes that are damp and treat sweaty footwear with a tea tree oil spray before wearing again – it’s antimicrobial and antibacterial so great for getting rid of germs. “Sunlight is also an excellent natural steriliser so leave those smelly shoes to dry out in the sun to kill any last remaining microbes,” Lauren suggested. Learn about the best types of shoes to wear to avoid foot complications.
If you have issues with mobility and can’t perform some or all of the above routine for yourself, get to know your podiatrist and book in for regular maintenance sessions every 6 – 8 weeks.
Lauren Robinson is a Senior Podiatrist with almost 10 years’ experience helping patients manage their diabetes.
She has been engaged by Sanofi to provide regular expert commentary for Diabetes-Care. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the view of Sanofi.