Putting your best foot forward!
In the long run, the hyperglycemia that characterizes diabetes ends up affecting the nerves (in what is known as neuropathy) and the blood vessels, especially the capillaries. This results in a loss of sensitivity and a decrease in the natural hydration of the feet, which leads to dry skin, cracks and calluses.
This means that not only are you more likely to injure your feet and not realize it right away, but you heal more slowly, and your wounds are more likely to become infected.
How do you prevent problems?
- As with everything related to diabetes—and health in general—adopting a healthy lifestyle can prevent many ailments.
- Avoid walking barefoot as much as possible, and wear appropriate, low-heeled shoes that have enough space for your toes (so long, Cinderella glass slippers!).
- Before putting on your shoes, make sure they’re free of foreign objects (such as a pebble).
- If you’ve been prescribed an orthosis, wear it as often as possible so that the pressure is evenly distributed when you walk or stand up. Avoid off-the-shelf insoles! Badly fitting soles can cause blisters.
- Similarly, to treat corns and calluses, avoid off-the-shelf medications, which can be dangerous for people with diabetes.
- Planning to relax in a warm bath? Check the water temperature with your elbow before climbing in. Otherwise, because of the loss of sensitivity in your feet, you risk not realizing that the water is too hot before it’s too late.
Inspect your feet every day! Make sure you have sufficient lighting to see the soles of your feet properly. If you’re not flexible enough, use a mirror or ask someone to help you.
If you have an injury (a cut, scrape or blister, for example), swelling, numbness or pain, or if your skin changes colour or looks bruised, consult a health care professional as soon as possible. You should also have one examine your feet every year.
Pampering your feet
- Wash your feet daily and dry them well, especially between the toes.
- Regularly apply a thin layer of perfume-free moisturizing cream or lotion, or petroleum jelly, to your feet. Don’t apply any between your toes: excessive hydration can lead to infection.
- Soaking your feet is not recommended. Despite what you’d think, it actually dries out your skin.
- Use an emery file to care for your nails instead of a nail clipper or a sharp instrument. Always file in the same direction—don’t move back and forth.
- If you have an ingrown toenail, or if your nails are thick or abnormally shaped, consult a health care professional; a nurse specializing in foot care, for example.
- To remove calluses, gently rub your wet skin with an exfoliating file or a moistened pumice stone. Never try to cut them off yourself! You could end up with ulcers or an infection. Consult your health care professional instead.
As is often the case with diabetes-related issues, giving your feet a bit of care can save you a lot of trouble.
American Diabetes Association, “Foot Complications”: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/foot-complications/. Accessed February 20, 2017.
Diabetes Québec, “Foot care”: http://www.diabete.qc.ca/en/living-with-diabetes/care-and-treatment/body-care/foot-care. Accessed February 20, 2017.
Diabetes Québec, “Le pied diabétique”: http://www.diabete.qc.ca/fr/comprendre-le-diabete/tout-sur-le-diabete/complications/le-pied-diabetique. Accessed February 20, 2017.
Fédération française des diabétiques, “Le pied diabétique et ses affections”: https://www.federationdesdiabetiques.org/information/complications-diabete/pieds. Accessed February 20, 2017.
Ordre des podiatres du Québec, “Soins des pieds”: http://www.ordredespodiatres.qc.ca/public/soins-des-pieds/. Accessed February 20, 2017.