When you have diabetes, you may be your own best caretaker. And this includes caring for your skin and feet.
Everyday, take the time to examine your feet and skin because people with diabetes can develop neuropathy; tingling, pain, or a loss of feeling in their legs and feet. They may not feel when there’s a stone in the bottom of their shoe, when they’ve stepped on a piece of glass while going barefoot or gotten a splinter on the bottom of their foot. They may not notice an injury or infection, which may lead to amputation.
That’s why it’s so important to take a close look at your feet and skin everyday.
“I keep a mirror handy and I look for anything unusual. Like, for instance, any kind of redness or flaking, calluses, dry skin, or a cut that won't heal. On the days my arthritis is acting up, I'll ask my husband to look for me.”
Check your shoes for any objects before putting them on. If you have neuropathy you may step on something harmful, and not notice it.
To reduce the risk of developing an ingrown toenail, keep your toenails trimmed so they're contoured to the shape of the toe. Smooth any rough edges with a nail file. If you have difficulty seeing your toenails, ask someone with good vision to help.
If skin or foot problems do develop, don't try to treat yourself. That includes using over-the-counter products for corns, calluses, or ingrown toenails. These products may only worsen the problem. Instead, see your diabetes care team right away. Early detection and treatment can help you avoid the serious effects of skin or foot problems.
The goal of good foot care is to prevent problems before they lead to amputation.
“If you make it a part of your normal routine, it's not hard. Every day you put shoes on, so you take a minute and you look your feet over real good.”
As well as daily self-exams, you should have a thorough foot exam once a year by your healthcare provider or podiatrist.
“So one of the things we check is your circulation, and you have a couple of pulse points that we’re concerned about in your feet.”
This exam should also include a monofilament test, which can identify if you have neuropathy. If you find that you have developed neuropathy, you are at high risk for developing foot complications. The monofilament is an inexpensive tool that you can also use at home for the early detection of neuropathy.
And don’t forget to take advantage of your regular healthcare visits. Whenever you go to see your healthcare provider take your shoes and socks off, and make sure the doctor examines your feet. This is another important preventative step in taking care of your feet when you have diabetes.
With regular self-exams and regularly scheduled appointments with your healthcare provider or podiatrist, you can protect your skin and feet for the long-term. Know what to look for, and get help when you need it.