If you’re like most people, the last couple of months have forced you to make a lot of changes to your daily routines. Maybe you still feel like you have no routine.
But even though we’re all still getting used to a “new normal,” one important thing that should never fall off your radar if you have diabetes is your daily foot care.
The potential complications of poorly managed diabetes on your feet and ankles can be severe, and they don’t go on pause just because the rest of your life may have slowed down. And while there’s never a “good” time to be dealing with a diabetic foot complication, the current pandemic is an especially bad time to need emergency care.
The good news, though, is that almost all of the most urgent diabetic foot complications can be fully prevented with simple, diligent home care. Staying on top of your routines today can mean continued good health long after the rest of life has returned to normal.
Your Diabetic Home Care Checklist
The Daily Self-Exam
The most important starting point is a daily diabetic foot self-exam. We’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: three minutes per day really could save your life.
Because of the way diabetes can impair your nerve function, circulation, and immune system, even “small” problems like cuts, bruises, or ingrown toenails can go undetected long enough to develop into concerning infections. Without proper care, they can spiral out of control, sometimes even requiring amputation.
The best way to avoid this outcome is to detect and deal with problems early, which is why you should give both feet a thorough visual inspection at least once per day, at a regular time. Note any troubling signs, and give us a call if they don’t improve.
Safe, Sensible Hygiene Tips
It’s extra important to keep your feet clean by washing them on a daily basis—as most people already do.
However, taking showers or baths that are too long or too hot can damage and break the skin, increasing your discomfort (and infection risk.) Worse, if you’ve lost some sensation in your feet, you might not even be able to feel when the water is too hot.
Always use lukewarm water to wash your feet. Test the temperature with a thermometer or elbow to be sure it’s safe.
Following your bath or shower:
- Pat dry after you bathe—avoid vigorous scrubbing.
- Apply a moisturizing cream or lotion when the skin is still slightly damp to help prevent your skin from breaking and cracking. Avoid the spaces between the toes, however.
- Put on a clean pair of socks afterward.
When it comes to skin and nail care, keep your toenails neatly trimmed but not too short or rounded in the corners, as this can increase your risk of a painful (and dangerous!) ingrown toenail.
Corns and calluses can be lightly filed, but never cut into them or use any kind of medicated pads on them. The risk of serious collateral damage is just too high.
Protect Your Feet
Because diabetes renders feet more vulnerable to damage—and you’re potentially less likely to notice and react to that damage—you should take a few extra precautions to protect them.
- Always check the insides of socks and shoes before putting them on. Shake out your shoes thoroughly. Make sure they’re free from foreign particles.
- Always wear shoes, even indoors, to protect against scratches and punctures.
- Change out socks and shoes if they become damp or waterlogged.
- Don’t use heating pads, electric blankets, hot water bottles, or other external heat sources if your feet get cold at night. You may not notice a serious burn. If you need to, wear thicker socks (or an extra pair) instead.
Manage Your Condition
While it’s always good to be on the lookout for the unfortunate side effects of diabetes on the feet, the best long-term strategy is to keep the condition as a whole in check. Elevated, unregulated blood sugar levels are what cause the systemic damage, so by managing your disease well you greatly reduce the ongoing risk of problems.
- Work with your primary care physician to develop a comprehensive plan for your diabetic care.
- Test your sugar regularly and take the necessary steps to keep it within a safe range.
- Eat a healthy diet. Chances are we’re all eating out a lot less due to the current pandemic, which hopefully means you’re less tempted to cheat and are cooking yourself healthy meals!
- Get plenty of exercise. Again, COVID-19 has meant that many people are no longer able to enjoy their specific favorite activities, but it’s still important to stay moving if you want to manage your diabetes! Low-impact indoor aerobics, walking outside, or going for bike rides are typically very good choices to get the blood pumping while minimizing risks to the feet, but do check with us and/or your primary care physician before starting a new exercise plan.
Don’t Be Afraid to Call if You Have Questions or Concerns
Yes, we’ve all had it drilled into our heads that we’re supposed to stay at home unless it’s absolutely necessary to go out.
Well, diabetic foot problems are frequently emergencies, and should always be evaluated by a foot or ankle specialist—pandemic or not. Fixing Feet Institute is open and available to provide necessary care for our patients with diabetes.
Even if you aren’t sure whether your concern rises to the level of “urgent,” or leaving your home is a good idea or not, your best bet is always to call us and ask. In some cases the best strategy may be to schedule a telemedicine appointment so we can examine your foot while you remain safely at home, then determine whether in-person follow-up care is required.
Don’t try to wait out a diabetic foot problem. The risk of inaction is simply too great. To get the guidance and care you need, call us today at (623) 584-5556. We wish you the best of health and safety during this difficult time!