Diabetes is a condition that affects how your body turns sugar into energy. Insulin is a hormone that helps sugar move from your bloodstream into your cells so it can be used for energy. People with diabetes either don’t have enough insulin or their body can’t use what they do have the right way. When this happens, you end up with too much sugar in your blood.
At Put Your Feet First, our podiatrist, Dr. Mark Forman, knows that diabetes doesn’t just create high blood sugar levels. Over time, high blood sugar causes complications that extend from your head to your literal toes.
Diabetic foot wounds affect as many as 10-15% of people with diabetes at some point during their lives. Because foot wounds can lead to ulcers and amputations, it’s important to focus on wound prevention.
Let’s explore how you can prevent diabetic foot wounds — and what to do if you spot the signs of an ulcer.
7 ways to prevent diabetic foot wounds
When you think of foot wounds, you might think of a severe laceration. However, if you have diabetes, even a blister can be problematic. That’s because when you have diabetes, your wounds heal slowly, increasing the risk of infection and ulcers. The good news is that there are several steps you can take to prevent a variety of wounds, from scratches to blisters to cuts.
1. Inspect your feet daily
Every day, spend a few minutes inspecting your feet and legs.
- Swelling on your skin
- Bruises on your feet or ankles
- Scrapes or cuts
Be sure to check all parts of your feet, including between your toes, the soles of your feet, the tops of your feet, and your ankles.
2. Keep up with your at-home foot care routine
For convenience, you might want to consider scheduling your daily foot inspection right before your shower. Keeping up with good skin care on your feet can help prevent skin infections, such as athlete’s foot. Infections can also lead to foot wounds. For example, if you scratch an itchy rash, you’re increasing your risk of developing an infection.
To care for your feet:
- Wash them daily
- Dry them thoroughly to prevent fungal infections
- Keep your nails trimmed (to prevent scratching your foot)
- Avoid using lotion in between your toes
Although you shouldn’t apply lotion between your toes, you should use lotion on the tops and bottoms of your feet if your skin is dry and cracked.
3. Protect your feet
High levels of blood sugar can damage nerves, leading to diabetic neuropathy. If you have diabetic neuropathy, you may experience sharp pains, tingles, or even numbness. The numbness can be particularly problematic because you could potentially injure your foot and not feel it. For this reason, it’s important to protect your feet at all times.
You can protect your feet by:
- Wearing shoes at all times, or at the very least, slippers while you’re inside
- Avoiding walking barefoot
- Removing all tripping hazards from your home
You can also protect your feet from blisters by wearing socks with your shoes.
4. Wear the right shoes
Wearing shoes is one way to protect your feet, but it’s important to wear the right shoes. Ill-fitting shoes are not only uncomfortable, but they can cause blisters or even pressure ulcers.
Take a pass on open-toe shoes, pointed-toe shoes, high heels, sandals, and flip-flops. Instead, choose comfortable, supportive shoes made of a breathable fabric — like canvas or leather.
Tip: If you’re unsure of your shoe size, don’t guess. Have a professional fit you for the right size. Make sure the toe box is wide enough for your foot and long enough for your toes.
5. Focus on your nutrition
Following a well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet is important for your overall diabetes management, but it’s also important for preventing diabetic wounds. Certain nutrients — such as protein, zinc, and vitamin C — are essential for wound healing.
6. Schedule in regular exercise … carefully
Exercise is important for those with diabetes, but exercise can increase the risk of a foot injury. When exercising, keep these tips in mind:
- Wear the right shoes and socks for exercise
- Avoid intense activities that may injure your foot
- Incorporate non-weight-bearing activities when you can
Gentle walking can be a great activity, but be sure to check your feet after exercise — even walking.
7. Don’t ignore concerning symptoms
If you spot the signs of a foot wound, like redness, swelling, or a scratch or cut, don’t wait to call us. Dr. Forman can clean and bandage the wound to help prevent an ulcer from forming. We can use our mist therapy to help your wound heal more quickly.’
If you have concerns about diabetic foot wounds or need to schedule an appointment, call our clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, at 480-423-8400. You can also book your appointment on our website.