Step Up Your Foot and Leg Care if You Have Diabetes
By Parveen Verma, DO, FACE, Endocrinologist—Virtua Endocrinology – Cherry Hill
There’s a lot involved in managing diabetes: planning meals, exercising, and taking medicine. Add checking your feet and legs to your daily schedule.
Checking your feet is important. For people with diabetes, even the smallest blister, sore, or bug bite can lead to serious complications.
Why good foot care matters
Sixty to 70 percent of people with diabetes develop a condition called peripheral diabetic neuropathy, which can lead to nerve damage over time. The nerves of the feet and legs are the ones most often affected.
This condition reduces your ability to feel pain in your feet. Untreated sores and cuts can become infected or turn into ulcers. To make matters worse, diabetes also can impair blood flow to your feet and legs, which makes it harder for these wounds to heal. If an infection spreads to the bone or leads to gangrene, a toe, foot, or part of a leg might need to be amputated.
Fortunately, you can greatly reduce your risk for complications by catching foot problems early and getting them treated promptly. Check your feet daily for cuts, blisters, sores, redness, swelling, warm spots, ingrown toenails, and other changes in your skin or nails. Use a mirror or ask your spouse or partner to help if you have trouble seeing all areas of your feet.
Contact your health care provider about cuts and blisters that haven’t started healing within a few days or if you notice other changes in your feet. By acting quickly, you usually can keep little problems from turning into big ones.
Put your best foot forward
To prevent many foot and leg problems:
- Manage your blood glucose levels. Work with your provider to develop a diabetes care plan that keeps your blood glucose within your target range as much as possible.
- Wash your feet daily with soap and warm (not hot) water, and dry them well. Apply lotion to the tops and bottoms of your feet, but not between your toes.
- Trim your toenails straight across, not rounded at the corners. Gently smooth out sharp edges with an emery board.
- Wear comfortable, well-fitting, closed-toe shoes. Check inside your shoes for pebbles or other objects that might harm your feet. Wear lightly padded socks made of cotton or moisture-wicking fibers that don’t have tight bands or thick seams.
- Promote blood flow to your lower limbs. Prop up your feet when sitting. Wiggle your toes and move your ankles around. Don’t cross your legs for long periods of time. Don’t smoke.
- Get a complete foot exam once a year (or more often, if recommended).
Taking good care of your feet and legs is a great way to stand up to diabetes.
Virtua’s wound healing centers in Mount Holly, Voorhees, and Willingboro provide the most advanced treatments for diabetes-related ulcers and other non-healing wounds.
Call 888-847-8823 to make an appointment at a Virtua wound healing center near you.
Updated January 13, 2022