Five Tips for Diabetics: Making Daily Foot Care a Priority

Five Tips for Diabetics: Making Daily Foot Care a Priority

Five Tips for Diabetics: Making Daily Foot Care a Priority

Diabetes is increasing in incidence worldwide. According to the CDC, people are being diagnosed with type II diabetes at an earlier age; most new cases diagnosed are in people between the ages of 45 and 64. Smoking, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are all risk factors for diabetes.

As a Home Health Nurse, I work with a variety of patients to provide care that helps them to feel their best and live comfortably and safely. In addition to hands-on care, our Home Health nurses have an important role to play in educating patients and family members on their condition and how best to manage systems and maintain good health.

With diabetics, the amount of information shared can be overwhelming. One of the areas we focus on is foot care and for good reason. According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, diabetes is the leading cause of non-traumatic lower extremity amputations in the United States, and approximately 14-24 percent of patients with diabetes who develop a foot ulcer will require an amputation. Foot ulceration precedes 85 percent of diabetes-related amputations.

Here are my top 5 tips for proper diabetic foot care.

  1. Respect the daily foot inspection: a thorough daily foot inspection is vital to people living with diabetes in preventing foot wounds. Daily foot inspection includes using a mirror to examine all surfaces of the feet. If needed, have a family member help you perform the inspection. If you find red or open areas, report them to your doctor immediately.
  1. Don’t skimp on lotion: After washing with soap and water, ensure that your feet are completely dry, paying special attention to drying between the toes. After washing and drying, make sure to moisturize your feet daily. Moisturizing helps prevent calluses which are dry areas that can crack, leaving an open area for bacteria to enter the wound. Apply lotion to the top, soles, and heels of the feet. Do not apply lotion between the toes, as this could foster bacterial growth.
  1. Make friends with your podiatrists: Routine podiatry care is an essential aspect of diabetic foot care and is covered by many insurance providers. If you are diabetic, you should never trim your own toenails. Your decreased feeling in your feet due to neuropathy may cause you to nick or cut the skin accidentally, leading to the risk of infection. Schedule regular podiatry appointments to make sure your feet are well cared for.
  1. Don’t be a slave to fashion: Improperly fitted shoes cause pressure areas on the feet that may not felt by the patient due to diabetic neuropathy or decreased sensation. These pressure areas can lead to an open wound. Find properly fitting shoes and monitor the areas where they touch or rub on your feet. Check with your insurance company to determine if you have a diabetic shoe benefit. Many retailers of diabetic shoes take insurances and some will even come to you home for a fitting.
  1. Never leave your shoes at home: Diabetics should never walk barefoot. Stepping on a sharp object with neuropathy can lead to a cut on the sole of the foot. This cut is then an entrance for bacteria and can lead to a wound.

Routine foot care can seem like an added expense, nuisance or burden for a diabetic when considered alongside other necessary symptom management. However, neglecting foot care can be costly in terms of your finances, time, health, independence and mobility.

Once a diabetic has a wound, treatment may require multiple disciplines including an endocrinologist, vascular surgeon, infectious disease specialist, wound care center, a registered dietician and a home health team. Diabetic foot wounds impair walking and increase risk of falls and injury, and decrease quality of life due to pain, worry, amputations, and frequent appointments for wound care and assessment.

The best way to treat a diabetic foot wound is to prevent its development in the first place. To learn about Allied Services Home Health click here or call 570.348.2200.

About the Author: April James, RN, MSN, serves as Director of Nursing and Professional Services for Allied Services Home Health division. April earned both her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Master's in Nursing from Wilkes University. She has been a member of the Home Health team for 10 years, most recently serving as a clinical care team supervisor.