Take Care of Diabetic Feet

  • Woman's hand adding salt to bath
    An Unnerving Condition
    If you have diabetes, you have blood sugar levels that are too high. Over time, this can damage your nerves and the blood vessels in your body. Damaged blood vessels mean your feet aren't getting enough oxygen or blood. With nerve damage, you may experience burning pain or a loss of feeling in your feet. It's why a small blister can turn into a major problem in the form of an ulcer.

  • Hospital emergency department entrance
    Take Steps to Healthy Feet
    Infected ulcers mean a trip to the hospital, and in severe cases, they can even lead to amputation. It's easy to see why taking care of your feet when you have diabetes is an important component of your overall health plan. Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to ensure that your tootsies stay in tip-top shape.

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    Listen to Your Doctor
    Follow your doctor's advice. Make sure you keep your blood sugar levels in check and you follow your recommended diet, exercise and medication program. Don't hesitate to ask questions. 

  • Feet on floor
    A Daily Checkup
    Give your feet a thorough once over. It's vital you check them every day, as you could have a serious foot problem but not be able to feel it. Look for any sores, red spots, or infected toenails. Call your doctor right away if you see a cut, bruise, or sore that doesn't start to heal after one day. Another tip: If you have a difficult time bending to examine the bottom of your feet, grab a mirror or enlist the help of family or friends.

  • Close-up of running shoes
    If the Shoe Fits...
    Get the right footwear. Find shoes and socks that fit well and comfortably—and wear them all the time. Walking barefoot—even indoors—makes it all too easy to step on something and injure your foot. It's also a good idea to check the insides of your shoes before putting them on to make sure they are smooth and there isn't anything in them that shouldn't be there.

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    Keep 'em Clean
    Wash your feet in lukewarm water. The water should never be hot, and you should avoid soaking your feet, as it can dry your skin out. A temperature of 90 to 95 degrees is safe.

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    Pat Your Paws
    Your washed feet also need a proper drying routine. Make sure you pat—not rub—your freshly bathed feet with a soft towel, paying attention that you dry them well between the toes.  One helpful hint: Sprinkle cornstarch on your toes to keep the skin between them dry. You may also want to dust some on your feet before putting on your shoes and socks.

  • nail clipper against white background
    Trim Your Toenails
    After you've washed your feet, it's a good time to trim your toenails, since nails will be softer after a soak. Nails should be trimmed about once a week and always clipped straight across—never cut into the corners of the toenail, as this can lead to ingrown nails.

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    Keep Skin Smooth
    Keep your feet smooth by applying lanolin lotion or petroleum jelly to the tops and bottoms of your feet, paying special attention to your heels. If you notice the skin is cracked, ask your doctor for the best way to treat it.

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    Stay "Even-Temperatured"
    Practice temperature control. Gearing up for a day at the beach? Make sure you wear shoes to avoid walking on hot pavement. Also slather sunscreen on top of your feet to prevent sunburn. If it's a frosty day, wear lined boots to protect your feet from the outside chill or socks at night if your feet tend to get cold while you sleep. When the temperature drops, it's also a good idea to check your feet regularly for frostbite if you've been out in the elements.

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    Wiggle Your Piggies!
    Move your feet. Finally, do some toe wiggling for five minutes, two or three times a day. You can also move your ankles up and down. These exercises will help keep the blood flowing to your feet and legs. It's also smart to avoid crossing your legs for long periods of time and to refrain from wearing socks that are too tight. And when vegging out on the couch at night, go ahead and prop your feet up—it'll help you relax and keep the blood flowing to your feet!

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    Step Out in Style
    Following your doctor's advice and these simple self-care steps can make sure your feet are ready to step out for years to come!

Take Care of Diabetic Feet
  1. Diabetes: Foot Care. American Academy of Family Physicians. http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/common/diabetes/living/352.printerview.html
  2. Take Care of Your Feet for a Lifetime. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://ndep.nih.gov/media/campaigns/Feet/Feet_overview.htm
  3. Diabetic Foot. U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/diabeticfoot.html
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 2
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.