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Diabetic Foot Care

Diabetes can lead to a number of foot complications. Fortunately, you can prevent most of these with a little extra foot care.

If diabetes is not well controlled, it can cause damage to blood vessels and result in poor circulation to the foot.

When the skin does not get enough blood flow, it becomes prone to pressure sores and ulcers, which heal slowly.
Gangrene is the most serious foot complication of diabetes. It usually occurs on the tips of the toes as blackened areas of skin. The black area is dead tissue. In severe cases, gangrene spreads to involve the entire toe, other toes, and the entire foot. Foot or toe amputation may be required. Good foot care and blood sugar control can prevent this.

Home care

  • Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes.
  • Wash your feet daily with warm water and mild soap.
  • After drying, apply a moisturizing cream or lotion to the top and bottom of your feet. Don't put lotion between toes.
  • Check your feet daily for skin breaks, blisters, swelling, or redness. Look between your toes as well. If you cannot see the bottoms of your feet, ask someone to look or use a mirror.
  • Wear cotton socks and change them every day.
  • Trim toenails carefully, and do not cut your cuticles.
  • Strive to keep your blood sugar under control with a combination of medicines, diet, and activity.
  • If you smoke and have diabetes, it is very important that you stop. Smoking reduces blood flow to your foot.
  • Schedule foot exams at least every year, or more often if you have foot problems.
  • Put your feet up when sitting, wiggle toes, and move ankles to help improve blood flow.
Avoid activities that increase your risk of foot injury:
  • Do not walk barefoot.
  • Do not use heating pads or hot water bottles on your feet.
  • Do not put your foot in a hot tub without first checking the temperature with your hand.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. Be sure to take off your shoes and socks before your appointment starts so your healthcare provider will be sure to check your feet. Report any cut, puncture, scrape, blister, or other injury to your foot. Also report if you have a bunion, hammertoes, ingrown toenail, or ulcer on your foot.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:
  • Black skin color anywhere on the foot
  • Open ulcer with pus draining from the wound
  • Increasing foot or leg pain
  • New areas of redness or swelling or tender areas of the foot
  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or greater
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