Foot Care for Diabetics
If you’re a senior, you’re probably pretty familiar with diabetes. After all, if you don’t have diabetes yourself, you probably know someone who does. About 20% of all people age 65 or older have diabetes – and many more cases are thought to be under-reported.
If you have diabetes or are caring for someone who does, you hopefully already know how to manage your condition. You’re exercising, eating right and keeping a close eye on your blood sugar levels. But are you paying enough attention to your feet?
Don’t be Defeated by Diabetes
The foot is one of the areas of the body most vulnerable to damage from diabetes. The vessels of the toes are one of the first places where problems will appear, but the entire foot can be afflicted by nerve damage, infections, ulcers and more.
Small foot problems can quickly grow out of control. Diabetic foot ulcers and lower extremity amputations occur in up to 15% of diabetics, according to the journal Diabetes Care.
Fortunately, with a little bit of info, you can stay “one step ahead” of diabetic foot damage. Here’s what you need to know:
Inspect Your Feet Twice a Day
About 60 to 70% of diabetics have some form of neuropathy. This can lead to loss of sensation, especially in the feet. When you can’t feel your feet, you also can’t feel any cuts, bruise or other wounds.
While not being able to feel pain doesn’t sound so terrible at first, the truth is even minor cuts can become infected – and you might not even notice until it’s too late. This is why diabetics should check their feet for injuries. Check once in the morning and then again before you go to bed. You’re looking for anything unusual. This includes redness, sores, blisters, and cuts. Also note any dry or cracked skin.
Don’t forget to inspect the undersides of your feet, too. Many people find that a small mirror works well here. If you have a caregiver, he or she can also check out your soles as well.
If a wound is discovered, it will need to be cleaned and covered with a bandage right away. Then – and this is very important – continue to pay attention to the wound during every subsequent foot inspection. If the wound doesn’t seem to be healing or seems to be healing very slowly, have your doctor check it out.
Keep Your Feet Clean
Your first line of defense against future problems is simple soap and water. Wash your feet with mild soap in tepid water. Don’t use hot water.
The National Institute of Health reports on many cases where diabetics have injured themselves after coming into contact with hot water. Because diabetes leads to loss of sensation, a diabetic might not notice when the water is too hot against their skin for too long of a time.
After you wash your feet, you want to apply lotion. Only use lotion made for diabetics or lotion that has been approved by your doctor. Moisturizing your feet prevents fissures and cracks in the skin. The smoother your skin is, the fewer places there are for infections to grow.
When to See Your Doctor
These daily maintenance steps aren’t just simple; they’ll also prevent a ton of major problems down the line. But don’t forget to check in with your doctor on a regular basis. If you’re physically active or have additional foot problems, check in with your doctor several times a year. All diabetics should have a foot exam at least once a year.
With just a little bit of know-how and maintenance, you and your feet can successfully kick major diabetic problems to the curb.