Diabetes: Looking after your feet
Living with diabetes can put you at risk of foot problems. Some of these problems can occur because the nerves and blood vessels supplying your feet are damaged which can increase your risk of developing foot ulcers.
These changes can be very gradual and you may not notice them. This is why it is essential that you have your feet screened every year. The screening will show whether you are at risk of developing an ulcer in your foot.
If your foot screening has shown that you do not have nerve or blood vessel damage then you are currently at low risk of developing foot ulcers.
Controlling your diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure, and having your feet screened every year by a trained professional will help to reduce the risk of developing foot problems.
Try to follow the advice given below:
- Check your feet every day
You should check your feet every day for any blisters, breaks in the skin, pain or signs of infection such as swelling, heat or redness.
- Wash and moisturise your feet every day
You should wash your feet every day in lukewarm water and with a mild soap. Rinse them thoroughly and dry them carefully, especially between the toes. Apply a moisturising cream every day if you have dry skin. Don’t moisturise between the toes—that could encourage a fungal infection.
- Cut or file your toenails regularly
Cut your toenails straight and use a nail file to make sure that there are no sharp edges which could press into the next toe. Don’t cut nails too short, as this could lead to ingrown toenails
- Avoid walking barefoot
Not even at home! Always wear shoes or slippers. If you walk barefoot you risk injuring your feet by stubbing your toes and standing on sharp objects which can damage the skin.
- Check your shoes
Check your shoes before putting them on to make sure that nothing sharp such as a pin, nail or glass has pierced the outer sole and that no small objects such as small stones have fallen in.
- Wear shoes that fit well and don’t squeeze or rub.
Ill-fitting shoes can cause corns, calluses or ulcers. Never treat corns or calluses yourself. Visit your doctor or podiatrist for appropriate treatment.
- Minor cuts and blisters
If you check your feet and discover any breaks in the skin, minor cuts or blisters, you should cover them with a sterile dressing and check them every day. Do not burst blisters. If the problems do not heal within a few days, or if you notice any signs of infection (swelling, heat, redness or pain), contact your diabetes team.
- Stop smoking
If you smoke, you are strongly advised to stop as smoking affects your circulation.
- Attend your annual foot assessments
It is important that you are seen by a health professional at least once a year to check your nerve function and circulation. However, you should seek urgent medical advice for even the mildest foot infection, including any sore, open wound or crack which is oozing, or which does not heal within a week.