A common and costly complication of diabetes, foot ulcers can easily be prevented through self-examination and proper foot care. When left untreated, foot ulcers can lead to infection, gangrene and lower limb amputation. Most often the result is minor foot trauma and wound-healing failure. Vascular disease - including diabetes and peripheral arterial disease - accounts for 54 percent of all amputations in the United States (Amputee Coalition). Because of poor circulation and nerve damage to the feet, people with diabetes are more likely to develop infections even from a minor foot injury. For this reason, people with diabetes should treat their feet with special care.
By following some simple foot care tips, people with diabetes can dramatically reduce their risk of amputation and lead healthy, active lives.
Patients with diabetes should follow these steps to prevent foot ulcers:
- Check your feet for cuts, sores, blisters, or areas of irritation. If you have any concerns, call your foot specialist or see your podiatrist or internist.
- Wash and dry your feet, particularly between your toes.
- Protect your feet from extreme hot and cold temperatures.
- Avoid walking barefoot.
When your toenails need trimming
- Trim your nails straight across, and only if you can see well.
- If you cannot see well or if your toenails are thick or yellowed, have a certified diabetic foot specialist at the Diabetes Care Center at St. Mary's or a podiatrist trim them.
- Do not cut into the corners of your toes.
- Do not use acid corn or callus removers or cut your corns or calluses.
When you visit your doctor, ask him/her to:
- Look at your bare feet at each visit. As a reminder, remove your shoes and socks.
- Check your feet for sense of feeling and your pulse at least once a year.
- Show you how to take care of your feet.