Protecting Your Feet from Complications of Diabetes
By Kingman Regional Medical Center Staff
If you have diabetes, it’s very important to take care of your feet. Even minor cuts or sores can become serious wounds that could lead to amputation. In fact, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, over 73,000 amputations of lower limbs are performed every year in the U.S. on people with diabetes.
Unfortunately, diabetes can affect blood flow to your feet. If you have any type of injury to your foot, it may not heal on its own because the healing process requires an adequate supply of oxygen-rich blood. If a wound does not get enough blood, it will take much longer to heal, if it heals at all. Also, with insufficient blood flow, the wound many not get enough white blood cells to fight infection.
Diabetes can also damage nerves, a condition known as diabetic neuropathy. With damaged nerves, you may not be able to feel a blister or cut on your foot. The wound could become badly infected by the time you notice it. If unrecognized and untreated, diabetic foot wounds can quickly become very serious.
How to care for your feet
If you have diabetes, the most important strategy for preventing foot wounds is to properly manage your diabetes. This includes eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, monitoring your blood sugar, and strictly following your medication regimen.
Proper foot care at home is also important. Follow these preventative measures to care for your feet:
Inspect your feet daily.
Check your feet once a day for blisters, cuts, cracks, sores, redness, tenderness or swelling. If you have trouble reaching your feet, use a hand mirror to see the bottoms of your feet. Place the mirror on the floor if it’s too difficult to hold, or ask someone to help you.
Wash your feet daily.
Wash your feet in lukewarm water once a day. Dry them gently, especially between the toes. Use a pumice stone to gently rub the skin over where calluses easily form. Sprinkle talcum powder or cornstarch between your toes to keep the skin dry. Use a moisturizing cream or lotion on the tops and bottoms of your feet to keep the skin soft.
Don’t remove calluses or other foot lesions yourself.
To avoid injury to your skin, don’t use a nail file, nail clipper, or scissors on calluses, corns, bunions or warts. Don’t use chemical wart removers. See your doctor or foot specialist (podiatrist) for removal of any of these lesions.
Trim your toenails carefully.
Trim your nails straight across. Carefully file sharp ends with an emery board. Ask for assistance from a caregiver if you are unable to trim your nails yourself.
Don’t go barefoot.
To prevent injury to your feet, don’t go barefoot, even around the house. Wear socks or slippers to protect your feet.
Wear clean, dry socks.
Wear socks made of fibers that pull sweat away from your skin, such as cotton and special acrylic fibers — not nylon. Avoid socks with tight elastic bands that reduce circulation, as well as thick bulky socks that often fit poorly and irritate your skin.
Wear shoes that fit properly.
Wear comfortable shoes that provide support and cushioning for the heel, arch, and ball of the foot. Avoid tight-fitting shoes and high heels or narrow shoes that crowd your toes. If one foot is bigger than the other, buy shoes in the larger size. Your doctor may recommend specially designed shoes (orthopedic shoes) that fit the exact shape of your feet, cushion your feet, and evenly distribute weight on your feet.
Smoking impairs circulation and reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood. These circulatory problems can result in more-severe wounds and poor healing. Talk to your doctor if you need help to quit smoking.
Schedule regular foot checkups.
Your doctor or podiatrist can inspect your feet for early signs of nerve damage, poor circulation, or other foot problems. Schedule foot exams at least once a year, or more often if recommended by your doctor.
Take foot injuries seriously.
Contact your doctor if you have a foot sore that doesn’t quickly begin to heal or other persistent problems with your feet. Your doctor will inspect your foot to make a diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate course of treatment.
Medical care for diabetic foot wounds.
If you have a wound that isn’t healing properly, tell your doctor right away. Your doctor will order tests to identify possible infection and assess blood flow to the wound area. If appropriate, your doctor may refer you to the KRMC Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Center for treatment.
At the KRMC Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Center, our team of wound care specialists will develop an individual program for your treatment, which may include:
- Wound debridement to remove unhealthy tissue and promote growth of healthy tissue in the wound area
- Wound dressings and special wound-care products to provide the correct environment for healing to occur
- Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy to deliver oxygen to tissues affected by injury or disease
For more information, please contact the KRMC Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Center at