Diabetes and Your Feet – Foot Health Tips

Making the Connection & Tips on Preventing Complications

Diabetes affects the lives of more than 9 million Canadians.  Many people have diabetes and don’t even know it!  Diabetes is the inability for the body to make or properly use insulin, and it impairs the body’s ability to convert sugars, starches and other foods into energy. The long-term effects of an elevated blood sugar can lead to serious damage of the eyes, heart, kidney, nerves, and feet.  The Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) recommends, at minimum, annual foot screenings for all diabetics and endorses the “CAWC Diabetic Foot Risk Assessment” exam that is always complimentary at all BioPed Footcare Clinics across Canada.

Diabetics who see a Canadian Certified Pedorthist or Registered Chiropodist for their footwear and custom orthotics are less likely to have serious foot complications, which can lead to ulcer, amputation or even death.  Keeping your feet in good health, starts with keeping your blood sugar in a healthy and consistent range, as recommended by your family physician.

How does Diabetes affect my feet?

In Diabetic Patients, the storage of blood sugar is affected.  This means that the sugar remains in the bloodstream and if consistently high for a period of months or years, it can begin to attack small blood vessels and nerves.  The smallest of them are found in our feet and therefore, tend to be affected first.  A Diabetic’s feet may be painful, cold or change colour and this can be a sign of blood vessel disease.  They may begin to detect a burning, tingling (pins & needles) or numbness in the feet that lasts all day and night. These are signs of neuropathy (nerve damage) and unfortunately, neuropathy is NOT reversible.  Neuropathy is prevented by strict blood sugar control early on, before the onset of the disease, but can also slow the progression of neuropathy, if you are already experiencing symptoms.

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Once neuropathy is present in your feet, you are then at risk for a foot wound and other complications, such as amputation and death.  It is crucial that you follow our footcare guide if you are diabetic and seek professional footcare from a BioPed Foot Specialist.

Prevent Foot Complications Related to Diabetes

THE FOLLOWING FOOTCARE ADVICE IS COMPOSED OF RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE AMERICAN ORTHOPAEDIC FOOT AND ANKLE SOCIETY, THE CANADIAN DIABETES ASSOCIATION AND BIOPED FOOTCARE MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS:

  1. Do not smoke. Smoking decreases the blood supply to your feet.
  2. Never walk barefoot, neither indoors nor out.
  3. Examine your feet daily for redness, warmth, blisters, ulcers, scratches, cuts and nail problems from shoes or other sources. Look at the bottom of your feet and between the toes. Use a mirror or have someone else look for you.
  4. Call your Doctor/BioPed Foot Specialist immediately if you experience any injury to your foot. Even a minor injury is an emergency for a patient with diabetes.
  5. Examine your shoes for foreign objects, protruding nails and rough spots inside before putting them on. Look and feel.
  6. Buy shoes late in the day. Never buy shoes that need “breaking in.” They should be immediately comfortable. Request shoes with deep toe boxes and shoes made of leather or other flexible upper material. Your footwear should be fitted by a professional, such as a BioPed Certified Pedorthist.
  7. Do not wear new shoes more than two hours at a time. Rotate your shoes. Do not wear the same ones every day.
  8. Never wear flip flops.
  9. Moisturize your entire foot if your skin is dry, but avoid putting cream between your toes. Dry skin can crack and let bacteria in. Try Footlogix®, a premium Canadian company specializing in diabetic creams and sold at all BioPed locations. Learn More»
  10. Keep feet away from heat sources (heating pads, hot water bottles, electric blankets, radiator, fireplaces). You can burn your feet without knowing it. Water temperature should be less than 92 degrees. Estimate the temperature with your elbow or bath thermometer (you can get one in any store that sells infant products).
  11. Do not file down, remove or shave calluses, corns or warts yourself. These should be taken care of by a BioPed Registered Chiropodist, Learn more about Chiropody » or Advanced Foot Care Nurse, Learn more about Foot Care Nurses.
  12. Do not use any chemicals or strong antiseptic solutions on your feet. Iodine, salicylic acid, corn/callus removers and hydrogen peroxide are potentially dangerous, unless used by a Chiropodist, Foot Care Nurse or Doctor.
  13. Trim your toenails straight across, or have a Chiropodist/Advanced Foot Care Nurse do it for you if you find it too difficult, or lack sensation. Avoid salon pedicures.
  14. Do not wear stockings or socks with tight elastic bands and do not use garters. Wear light-colored socks and do not wear any socks with holes. This makes detecting having stepped on something much easier. Always wear socks with your shoes. BioPed sells Canada’s #1 diabetic sock, Simcan®.
  15. In the more damp and cool months, avoid getting your feet wet in the snow and rain. Too much moisture can lead to a wound or infection. Also, avoid letting toes get cold. You may already have poor blood circulation in the tiny toe vessels and this combined with cold weather can result in blackened toes.