Diabetes poses several serious risks for a person's feet. One such risk is nerve damage, such as diabetic neuropathy, that can impair a person's ability to feel their extremities. Because of this, a simple sore or cut on the foot can unknowingly turn into an ulcer, and if left untreated, can result in infection, gangrene or even amputation.
Another serious risk is reduced blood flow to the feet due to the hardening and narrowing of blood vessels and arteries, also known as PAD (or Peripheral Artery Disease). Because blood flow has been reduced, the body has a more difficult time fighting off infection or healing an injury. This means that any wounds that may occur will be more difficult to heal. Peripheral Artery Disease also greatly increases your risk for heart attack or stroke.
There are some precautions one can take in order to avoid serious complications of the feet due to diabetes:
See your foot and ankle doctor for regular exams
Avoid smoking, which results in arteries hardening even faster
Never walk barefoot and always wear shoes with a protective rubber tip on the end.
Never try to warm your feet with a heating pad or hot water. This can result in burns. Use socks instead.
Inspect your feet daily for cuts, blisters, swelling, redness, or sores. If any of these issues are seen, contact your foot and ankle surgeon so they can be treated as soon as possible.
Before bathing, check the water temperature using your hand or a thermometer.
Be gentle when bathing your feet. Dry them by blotting or patting, and carefully dry between the toes.
Moisturize your feet, but do not moisturize between the toes.
Cut your toenails carefully.
Never treat corns or calluses yourself. Visit your doctor for appropriate treatment.
If you have neuropathy, use a cane to prevent falls.
Wear socks made for patients with diabetes, and be sure to change them daily.
Shake out your shoes and feel the inside with your hand before wearing them.
Talk with your foot and ankle surgeon to see if you are at risk for PAD. If recommended, an ABI (ankle-brachial index) test can be performed to verify a diagnosis.