The feet are an important site of complications in people with diabetes and so special care must be taken to keep the feet healthy and look out for early signs that problems may be developing.
Over time, uncontrolled diabetes results in damage to nerves and blood vessels in the feet which can reduce sensation and cause circulation problems. Because of this, people with diabetes may not notice cuts, sores or swelling on the feet, and without treatment wounds may become infected.
Protecting the Feet
Raised blood glucose levels, high blood pressure and high cholesterol all contribute to the risk of foot problems occurring, and so strategies that control these factors contribute to keeping the feet healthy. Smoking also increases the risk of foot problems, and so this is one more reason why people with diabetes are strongly encouraged not to smoke.
People with diabetes should receive a thorough foot examination from a specially trained health professional once every year. This involves checking the feet for signs of numbness or circulation problems, or any damage to the foot. In addition, people with diabetes themselves are advised to carry out a daily foot care check and to keep their feet clean and healthy:
- Wash the feet every day with soap and water and dry them thoroughly, including between the toes. Use a moisturising cream afterwards, but not between the toes.
- Check the feet every day for cuts, dry or hard skin, colour changes (redness or dark patches), pain, soreness, swelling, heat, corns or blisters. Report any problems that do not improve by themselves to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team.
- Wear shoes that fit well and avoid walking bare-foot if there is any sign of numbness in the feet.
- Cut nails every month or two by trimming straight across the nail and filing any rough edges.
People with diabetes who notice problems like those detailed above should not hesitate to contact a diabetes healthcare professional or specialist podiatrist since early treatment can prevent more serious problems developing.
Guidelines for Healthcare Pofessionals in the management of feet in people with diabetes (PDF format)