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Foot Care for the Diabetic

Written by kimmel52 on November 11, 2008 – 11:15 pm

By Nancy Lydia Kimmel R.N., Ph.D., C.H.M.M.

Proper foot care is very important for people who are diabetic. People spend a great amount of time on their feet. Knowledge of proper foot care can save the diabetic individual from many future complications that can arise from foot care neglect, such as open wounds, infection, and loss of toe nails, poor circulation, peripheral neuropathy, septicemia and gangrene. Diabetes causes poor circulation, which in turn causes the diabetic individual a loss of sensation. The feet are the farthest away from the heart and are therefore the most susceptible to complications from injury.

Using common sense and taking some simple precautions will go a long way to promoting healthy feet. Here is a list of some of some healthy tips for diabetics regarding their foot care.
– Water should be tested with the person’s hand, and should be tepid not hot. Due to peripheral neuropathy, it is possible to use water that is too hot and can cause injury to the tissue.
– Use soap that is gentle on the skin, such as Ivory. or Dove.. Antibacterial soaps can be harsh on the skin, cause allergic reactions in some people.
– Instead of clipping the toe nails, use an emery board. Clipping the toe nails can lead to breaking the skin or ingrown toe nails.
– See a podiatrist on a regular basis, at least monthly. The podiatrist can clip the toe nails and determine if there are any areas of concern.
– Wear foot coverings at all times. Going barefoot can lead to unexpected injury from foreign objects as well as bacterial infection. Sandals that are open toed should be avoided. Always try to cover the entire foot. Use slippers while in the home.

Be sure to have comfortable shoes. Choose shoes that are a half size bigger and wide enough to accommodate cotton socks. Leather shoes are better than vinyl man made materials. The type of activity that someone engages in usually dictates the type of shoes to be worn. Comfort should be their priority. A diabetic may choose not to wear socks with their tennis shoes while engaging in an activity. If they are wearing shoes made of vinyl or leather, their feet will sweat profusely. Sweat from feet, especially in a slightly anaerobic environment (without oxygen) can become acidic, rather than alkaline. The acid sweat can irritate the skin and excoriate areas where there are sores beginning to form.
– Always use cotton socks. Cotton absorbs sweat more than any other material. Avoid nylon socks if possible.
– Avoid shoes that have high heels. High heels will push the toes forward and can easily cause ingrown toe nails and loss of feeling.
– Try to elevate the feet during the day. Schedule daily rest periods. When elevating the feet, try to keep the feet higher than the heart. This position allows blood to flow easier and enhances circulation.
– Avoid perfumed lotions on the feet. If dryness is a problem, use alcohol and perfumed free lotions. Be sure to thoroughly massage all of lotion into the foot, or dry off excess lotion.
– Dry feet thoroughly after each washing and air out feet if possible during the day.
– Avoid standing for long periods of time. Blood has a tendency to pool in the foot and ankle area, making it harder to circulate back to the heart.
– Avoid activities that can cause injury to the foot, such as soccer and football. If those games cannot be avoided, then choose good foot protection.

Using proper foot care sense with good hygiene can make living with diabetes easier and prevent unnecessary complications that could affect the quality of ones life.

1. www.diabetes.org
2. www.diabetes-exercise.org
3. www.diabetesnet.com/diabetes_resources
4. www.ChildrensDiabetesFdn.org
5. Dudek, Susan G., Nutrition Essentials for Nursing Practice, 5th ed., Publisher: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, copyright 2006

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