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How to prevent diabetes foot ulcers
If you have diabetes, it's important to protect your feet. The disease can cause nerve damage and other issues that make you less likely to notice when you have a problem with your feet. Diabetes can also slow down healing. As a result, even a small sore on your foot could turn into a foot ulcer—a wound that doesn't heal.
Fortunately, you can take steps to help keep your feet healthy. Keep reading to learn about some habits that can help.
Control your blood sugar
Elevated blood sugar (glucose) levels can damage your feet. It's important to reach the glucose goals your doctor sets for you. Healthy habits, like exercising and eating right, can help you maintain good glucose levels. If you use insulin or oral medications, be sure to take them the way your doctor or nurse tells you.
Smoking increases your risk for foot ulcers by reducing circulation.
Wash and check your feet every day
Use lukewarm water and mild soap to wash your feet. Dry them well, especially between the toes, where trapped moisture may promote infection.
After washing is a good time to check your feet. Look for issues such as blisters, cuts, sores, broken skin, redness or swelling. Report any concerns to your doctor.
Can't see or reach your feet? Use a mirror or ask a loved one for help.
Protecting your feet from cuts, scrapes or burns can help you prevent infections. Use these three strategies:
- Don't go barefoot (even indoors).
- Check for pebbles in your shoes before putting them on.
- Avoid heating pads and hot baths, especially if you've lost feeling in your feet.
Choose the right footwear
Choose shoes that fit snugly (not too tight or too loose) with room for your toes. Break new shoes in by wearing them for no more than a couple of hours at a time at first. And avoid tight socks, which can reduce blood flow to your feet.
Trim nails straight across
Use a file to smooth rough edges. If you cut your toenails at the sides or trim them too short, you might nick your skin, paving the way for a possible infection.
If you have an ingrown nail, callous or corn, ask your doctor what to do. Don't remove these yourself.
Choose foot-friendly exercises
Walking is often a good option. But if you have any foot problems, other activities, like riding a bike or swimming, may be better choices. Ask your doctor what's right for you.
Contact your doctor at the first sign of a foot problem
Even small issues may lead to ulcers if left untreated. Any of the following signs is a reason to see your doctor right away:
- Poor hair growth or nails that look yellow, thick or crumbly.
- Changes in the shape, color or temperature of your feet.
- Tingling, burning or pain.
- Loss of feeling.
- Dry, cracked skin.
- Blisters, sores or other injuries.
- Fungus infections (like athlete's foot) between your toes.
- Pain or cramping in your legs, thighs or buttocks during physical activity.
Diabetes damages more than your feet
Do you know how diabetes affects other parts of your body?
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; UpToDate
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Diabetes and Your Feet." https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/healthy-feet.html.
- UpToDate." Patient Education: Foot Care for People with Diabetes (Beyond the Basics)." https://www.uptodate.com/contents/foot-care-for-people-with-diabetes-beyond-the-basics.