Banner Health Services  

How to protect feet from wounds when you're a diabetic

Glenn Silverstein  

Glenn Silverstein, MD, is a podiatric surgeon at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix. He specializes in treating chronic and acute diabetic foot wounds, ulcers, and infections. 

Question: I have diabetes and my doctor says I have foot neuropathy. What is this and how do I protect my feet from wounds?

Answer: Foot neuropathy (numbness) is common in people with diabetes and proper foot care is vital to prevent wounds. As a podiatrist who specializes in treating diabetic foot wounds, I often see patients with injuries that could have been prevented with proper foot care.

One of the easiest ways people with diabetes can prevent foot wounds is to never go barefoot — either indoors or outdoors. Walking in bare feet or with only socks on is risky because you may step on a sharp object and not feel it. The foreign object can cause a wound that can lead to an infection.

Walking barefoot outdoors presents the added risk of burning your feet on the hot pavement — especially in climates such Arizona.

Wearing shoes that fit properly is a must. The friction caused by improperly fitting shoes can cause a blister or callus. If you have any areas on your feet where the bones are close to the surface of the skin (e.g., bunions or hammertoes), look for shoes that accommodate the shape of your foot.  Avoid tight fitting shoes.

Do not wear the same shoes every day, as the shoes may remain moist, which can cause your skin to become macerated. (This is the soft, wrinkled appearance skin gets when you sit in the bathtub too long.)  Maceration can make the skin more susceptible to infections.

Try to alternate your shoes so they have a chance to dry out.

Moisturize your feet daily with a cream that indicates it’s good for people with diabetes. If possible, it’s best to have a podiatrist or qualified health care professional cut your nails so you don’t accidentally cut the skin.

Every day, examine the top and bottom of your feet and look between the toes. If you see any swelling, cuts, blisters, or open wounds, apply a bandage to the area and schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.

Do not “pop” a blister or use a sharp instrument on a callus. If you have trouble seeing or cannot get close enough to examine your feet, make arrangements for someone else to examine them.

Even if you don’t experience any problems with your feet, you should have them examined by a physician twice a year.

Page Last Modified: 08/12/2014
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