Basic Steps to Foot Care
I am 20 years old, and I have been diabetic for almost 10 years now, with no foot problems. However, I always read about diabetics having to take care of their feet, and it scares me to think that one day I may have to get a foot amputated. I play tennis very often and have many calluses on my feet—do I need to be worried? Clayton Powell
Lee J. Sanders, DPM, responds: Your question is an important one. Simply put, healthy foot care habits that are developed early in life make a big difference in later years. Foot inspection should be an important part of your daily routine and diabetes self- management. Early recognition of uncomplicated conditions can prevent more serious complications. You should look for the following signs, comparing one foot to the other:
1. A change in the size or shape of the foot
2. A change in skin color (becoming red or blue)
3. A change in skin temperature (warmer or cooler)
4. An open area of skin (blister or sore) with or without drainage
5. An ingrown toenail
6. Structural deformities of the foot (hammer toes or bunions)
7. Corns or calluses
8. Pain, burning, tingling, or numbness in your feet
Acute changes should be promptly reported to your podiatrist or the doctor taking care of your diabetes. Regular professional foot care is advised for treatment of your calluses. Treating these conditions yourself is ill-advised. Daily use of an emollient (lotion) is helpful for dry skin care (and reminds you to look at your feet).
Selection of footwear should be appropriate for the occasion. Your feet should be measured and shoes should be properly fitted by an experienced shoe fitter. Athletic shoes are generally designed for specific sports activities. Make sure that your tennis shoes fit well, are comfortable, and are in good condition. Make sure to wear athletic socks. Socks made with a blend of acrylic and natural fibers are best for wicking moisture away from the skin. (To learn more, check out "Walking 101.")
An annual foot exam is recommended for identification of conditions that may require further investigation or treatment. Prevention of foot complications is the key objective. Amputation is not an inevitable consequence of diabetes.