Anyone can have a foot problem. For people with diabetes, however, the possibility of incurring even a common foot issue can lead to infection or serious complications and even amputation. As a precaution, it is important for those with diabetes to take preventive measures, including making seasonal weather adjustments, according to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS).
“With an already compromised system, patients with diabetes are prone to poor blood circulation and nerve disease in their extremities. As such, it is important they don’t solely rely on their senses but instead make provisions based on factors, such as a change in climate, to help maintain healthy feet,” said Michigan-based foot and ankle surgeon and ACFAS Fellow Member Michael Ambroziak, DPM, FACFAS.
To help patients stay healthy, ACFAS provides the following five winter diabetic foot care safety tips.
1. Keep your feet dry.
When it comes to your feet, rain, snow and slushy weather have something in common: they cause dampness. Moisture that collects between your socks and your feet and toes can form bacteria, which can lead to an infection.
Patients with diabetes should change out of wet or damp socks, and towel dry their feet as soon as possible, remembering to pay close attention to the area between their toes.
2. Moisturize your feet.
Use a moisturizer daily to keep dry skin from itching or cracking. But, don’t moisturize between the toes-that could encourage a fungal infection. “Poor circulation associated with diabetes often decreases the moisturizing glands in patients’ feet who are diabetic, leaving their feet more susceptible to severe dryness,” said Dr. Ambroziak.
Even everyday activities during colder weather, such as warming feet by the fire or adjusting the heat on their feet in a car, can present issues for patients with diabetes. They should be mindful of red, shiny areas on their feet, which can be warning signs of skin on the brink of breaking down.
3. Avoid direct heat to your feet.
A safer way for someone with diabetes to minimize dryness and the chance of burning their feet is to keep direct heat away from that area.
Diabetes can cause nerve damage in the feet, making the simple task of warming them in the winter rather intricate for someone with diabetes.
Dr. Ambroziak adds, “With the numbness caused by neuropathy, diabetic patients may not feel when their feet are burning. As a result, they can experience second- or third-degree burns, which can cause serious foot problems.”
Patients with diabetes should not put their feet in hot water – they should test bath water with their hands or a thermometer first. Also, avoid using warming aids on the feet, such as electric blankets, heated shoe inserts and heating pads.
To keep your toes toasty during cooler temps, ask your foot and ankle surgeon to recommend moisture-wicking socks that will keep your feet dry and warm.
4. Get the right shoes.
Selecting the best winter footwear is a tedious process for many people, but having diabetes brings about an even bigger set of concerns.
“In any climate, patients with diabetes should wear well-fitted shoes with supportive soles and a wide toe box to reduce cramping. During the colder seasons, extra thought should be given to sock texture and how the weather will affect walking conditions,” said Dr. Ambroziak.
5. Get periodic foot exams from a foot and ankle surgeon.
Dr. Ambroziak concluded, “Because patients with diabetes are highly sensitive to foot issues, they should see a foot and ankle surgeon regularly as a preventive measure.”
With proper foot care, patients with diabetes can lessen their chances of incurring a foot issue. With regular visits, a foot and ankle surgeon can notice alarming changes in their patients’ feet and provide the appropriate treatment.
For more information on diabetic foot care or to find a foot and ankle surgeon in your area, visit ACFAS’ patient education website at foothealthfacts.org.
The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons is a professional society of 7,400 foot and ankle surgeons. Founded in 1942, the College’s mission is to promote research and provide continuing education for the foot and ankle surgical specialty, and to educate the general public on foot health and conditions of the foot and ankle through its patient education website, FootHealthFacts.org.