Individuals with diabetes must take good care of their feet, especially during the cold winter months.
Diabetes can affect the health of your feet in several ways. Diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage) can cause you to lose feeling in your feet. You could have a cut, a blister, or a splinter and not even know. You could also experience numbness or tingling in your feet.
As a diabetic, you also tend to heal more slowly from injuries. Diabetes can reduce the amount of blood flow to extremities like your feet, causing any injuries to heal even more slowly and be susceptible to infection.
So how can you prevent these issues?
Check your feet every day for any sores, splinters, cuts, or blisters. Also check your toenails for any swelling or discoloration. Choose a time of day to check your feet. Perhaps the morning is a very busy time, so you choose to give your feet the once-over when you take your shoes off in the evening. If you have trouble seeing your feet, ask a family member to check for you, or use a mirror to get a better view.
Be sure to wash your feet well each day. Wash with warm, not hot water. Test the water before getting in to ensure it is not too hot. You don’t want to burn yourself. Also, don’t linger in the tub; if you soak your feet too long in warm water, it can cause your skin to become dry.
After washing, you can apply a thin coat of moisturizing lotion or cream to your feet. Do not apply lotion or cream in between your toes as the moisture could cause an infection to develop. Instead, apply talcum powder or cornstarch in between your toes to keep the area dry.
If you have corns or callouses, check with your podiatrist before attempting to file them or remove them. If your physician gives you the okay, you can try smoothing any rough areas with a pumice stone. Never use razor blades or any form of corn/callous remover; you could accidentally damage your skin and cause infection.
Be sure to keep toenails trimmed and smooth. If you are not able to do this yourself, ask a family member for help, or ask your physician to do it for you. Or treat yourself to a pedicure!
It is important to wear shoes and socks at all times, but especially during the winter months. Do not go barefoot while walking inside or outside. This will greatly reduce your risk of stepping on something or injuring your foot.
Speaking of socks, choose a pair that are lightly padded and do not have seams. This will allow for a more comfortable feel. Also make sure your socks are not too tight as this can prevent healthy blood flow to your feet.
Always choose a clean pair of socks without any holes or rips. If your socks get wet in snow or slush, change them quickly. Clean, dry socks are a must for foot health!
As far as footwear goes, you’ve certainly got plenty of choices. When buying shoes, choose a pair that feel good and allow plenty of room for your toes. Consider having your foot measured to ensure the perfect fit. Choose breathable fabrics and steer clear of shoes made from vinyl or plastic. Do not wear shoes with high heels or pointed toes too often as they can be restricting on your feet.
As the nights get cold, it will be tempting to curl up with a good book and this sweet treat next to a warm fire. However, be sure not to put your feet close to the fireplace or space heater. You could burn them without realizing it.
If your feet get cold in bed at night, rather than using a heating pad or hot water bottle, put on a pair of thick, warm socks. This way, you have control of your comfort, and prevent the chance of your feet being burned while you are asleep.
If you live in a very cold climate, or in a location with snow, wear lined boots whenever you go outside. The boots will keep your feet warm and protected. Remember, don’t forget your socks!
Being more active will keep blood flowing to your feet. In the winter months, it can be challenging to stay active as we usually keep inside. Move a little each day in whatever way you like.
Find a local dance class to attend. Ballroom, jazz or ballet; whichever your favorite, dancing is a great way to stay active (and stay warm indoors!) Or, if your home or your fitness center has a heated pool, go for swim to relax and warm up.
Stay in communication with your healthcare team throughout the year. Keep them in the loop on how you are feeling, how your blood sugar has been, and ask if they have any recommendations for your winter health overall.
Click here to view even more foot care tips from the American Diabetes Association.
As John Steinbeck said, “What good is the warmth of summer without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?” Enjoy this winter season!