Summertime means wearing strappy sandals, enjoying barefoot walks on the beach and dipping our toes in pools, oceans, and lakes. But for people with diabetes, these pleasurable acts can cause serious harm.
Getting a blister, scrape, or other foot injury may seem like no big deal. However, any injury is an invitation for infection. Having diabetes makes it harder for the body to fight off infections, which can wreak havoc on blood sugar levels and lengthen the healing process.
What’s more, chronic high blood sugar levels from diabetes can damage the nerves in your body, including the nerves in your feet. This type of nerve damage is called diabetic neuropathy.
Diabetic neuropathy can lead to pain and numbness, impair your ability to feel hot and cold, and cause that strange “pins and needles” sensation in your feet. This means that you may walk around with a foot injury and not even notice it. Even a small scrape on your foot can cause an open sore, known as an ulcer. When left untreated, ulcers can get worse quickly and in the most serious of cases, can even lead to foot amputation.
Summer foot care tips for diabetics
- Never go barefoot. Don’t walk barefoot on the beach, at the pool, or on pavement. This will stop you from stepping on something and getting hurt, and it will also prevent burns from hot sand.
- Resist the urge to wear uncomfortable shoes. Trendy sandals and flip-flops may look cute, but they’re not worth the risk. Always wear comfortable shoes that fit well. Make sure the inside of your shoes are smooth and nothing rubs against your feet. It’s best to always wear socks with shoes.
- Apply sunscreen to your feet. Lathering the tops and bottoms of your feet and toes with sunscreen will keep them from getting burnt.
- Be wary about getting pedicures. The American Diabetes Association says it’s safe for people with diabetes to get pedicures under certain conditions. First, make sure you don’t have any foot complications. However, skip getting a pedicure if you have a cut or you suffer from uncontrolled neuropathy. If you do decide to get one, make sure you choose a clean salon with a good reputation. Tell the technician that you have diabetes. The tech should fill the tub with cooler water and give you a gentler massage than s/he might offer a regular customer. Request that s/he not clip your cuticles or file your calluses, and ask that s/he trim your toenails straight across.
- Stay on top of your regular diabetes and foot care habits. Check your feet for injury each day, and treat wounds right away. See your doctor if an injury doesn’t heal.
Wash your feet thoroughly each night. Then apply a lotion to your feet, but do not put it between your toes.
Keep your blood sugar in check. The best way to reduce your risk of all diabetes-related foot care issues is to follow your treatment plan as directed by your doctor.
Questions? Problems? We’re here for you
Dr. Jeffrey Wachtel has treated many patients near Lansdale, Pennsylvania who live with diabetes and therefore need to follow a special foot care regimen. If you develop problems this summer or any other time of the year, please call for an appointment right away. Dr. Wachtel will be glad to help you develop a personalized care plan to minimize foot pain and other issues that are common among those with diabetes.