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Diabetes: 10 tips to protect your feet

Diabetes can reduce the blood flow to the feet and reduce the amount of feeling. This can make it harder for blisters, sores and cuts to heal. Reduced feeling in the feet caused by peripheral neuropathy means damage to the feet often isn’t noticed unless you look for it.

Foot checks should be part of routine diabetes care from diabetes nurses and doctors. In between clinic visits, looking after the feet is an important part of managing diabetes.

10 tips to protect your feet

Check both feet daily
Look over both feet carefully every day, and make sure you check between all of your toes. Look for skin damage, hard skin, the ball of the foot, places where bones stick out or where shoes or socks may rub. If it’s difficult for you to check your own feet, ask a family member to help.

Wash with warm - not hot - water
Wash both of your feet briefly each day with warm - not hot - water. You may not be able to feel heat with your feet, so test the water with your hands first. Avoid soaking too long in water, since waterlogged sores take longer to heal. Dry your feet straight away, and remember to dry gently between all of your toes.

Make sure your shoes fit well
It's an investment worth making. Even the slightest rubbing or poorly fitting shoe can cause a blister that turns into a sore that becomes infected and may never heal. Buy better-fitting shoes, or try different socks, even at the most minor signs of redness or irritation, since you may not be able to feel when it's getting worse. Before buying or putting on the shoes check them for rough seams, sharp edges or other objects that could hurt your feet. In addition, break your shoes in gradually.

Don't go barefoot
Always wear shoes or slippers. Always wear socks with your shoes, since leather, plastics and manmade shoe materials can irritate your skin and quickly bring on blisters. While you might prefer the look of tights, nylon knee-highs or thin socks, you may find that these don't give your toes or heels enough protection. Wear thicker socks to pad your feet and cushion any callouses or sore spots.

Speak up
Nerve damage can be unpredictable. Tell your doctor about any changes in sensation in your toes, feet or legs. Speak up if you notice pain, tingling, pins-and-needles, numbness or any other unusual signs - even if it seems trivial to you. There's nothing trivial about the risk of amputation.

Stay soft - but dry
Your skin may be dry and cracked because of high glucose levels, and cracked skin means it's easier for bacteria to get into and under the skin and harder for infections to heal. Use a small amount of skin lotion daily, but be sure your feet feel dry - not damp or sticky - afterwards. Try not to get the lotion in between your toes. Keep your toenails trimmed and filed smooth to avoid ingrown toenails. You may find it easier to trim your nails after using lotion, when your cuticles are softer. Use a pumice stone after showering or bathing to softly file corns or callouses.

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