We get a lot of questions about foot care and neuropathy (numbness) associated with diabetes. Chad Westphal, DPM, is a podiatric surgeon with Banner Medical Group. He specializes in the surgical treatment of foot, ankle and diabetic foot wounds, ulcers and infections.
Foot neuropathy is common in people with uncontrolled diabetes, and proper education and foot care is vital to prevent wounds, he says, adding, "As a podiatrist who specializes in treating diabetic foot wounds, I see a 90 percent reduction in diabetic ulcers and infections in patients who regularly have their feet checked by a podiatrist. Personal neglect is the biggest factor I see leading to preventable diabetic foot amputations."
Westphal offers these foot care tips:
Never go barefoot indoors or outdoors
Walking barefoot 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.
Wear proper fitting shoes
The friction and pressure caused by wearing poorly fitted shoes can cause blisters or calluses. 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. Blisters and calluses are the precursors to diabetic foot ulcers. A podiatrist can also surgically correct such problematic deformities to avoid ulcer and infection when shoe change is ineffective. Moisturize your feet Use an unscented lotion to moisturize your feet daily. Dry skin secondary to Arizona’s arid climate is a common cause of calluses and cracks or fissures on the soles of the foot.
Perform daily foot checks
You are your first line of defense when it comes to diabetic foot wound and infections. Check your feet daily, and 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 self-treat with sharp instruments
If you have trouble seeing or cannot get close enough to reach your feet, make arrangements for someone else to examine them.
Diabetic ulcers and infections are very preventable. Even if you don’t experience any problems with your feet, you should have them examined by a podiatrist annually as a precaution.