During the winter, it is important for people with diabetes to take special care of their feet. The cold months can lead to certain conditions. Discover more about maintaining excellent foot care during the chilly winter season.
- It is essential to inspect your feet each day. Look between your toes and at the pressure areas of your feet. Search for breaks in your skin, sores, corns and calluses as well as color changes, odor changes and discharge or oozing. If you cannot see the bottoms of your feet well, consider a telescopic foot mirror. Look for stains in your shoes and socks. Peak inside your shoes for stones or rough edges before you put them on. Report any changes in the condition of your feet to your doctor right away. Make sure to remove your shoes and socks during routine medical exams.
- Choose the proper footwear for the weather. Your feet should be measured to ensure your shoes fit correctly. Shoes should have ample room for your toes with rounded tips. Consider the weather when you select shoes. They should protect your feet from ice and snow, be properly padded and have enough room so blood flow to your feet is not constricted. Diabetic shoes are a good choice. Avoid boots and shoes constructed of man-made materials that may trap moisture and choose leather or suede instead. Wear the right socks to stay warm without hurting your feet. Your socks and shoes should be breathable to wick away moisture and promote air circulation.
- Keep your feet warm and dry throughout the winter. Wading through puddles and snow can make your feet damp and cause bacteria to gather. If your feet get wet outside, dry them gently and carefully with a soft towel when you get indoors. Include the areas between your toes. Change out of wet socks and shoes immediately.
- Remember to trim your toenails regularly. Untrimmed toenails may lead to infections and ulcers. Cut your nails after a shower or bath when they are softer; trim your toenails straight across with a clipper. Talk to your doctor about the correct way to trim your toenails if you have questions. If you have difficulty, a podiatrist can trim them for you. Medicare plans will cover the cost of visiting a podiatrist for diabetic foot care. Check with your insurance program for eligibility. Discolored, thick and crumbly nails may require a doctor’s care.
- Wash your feet each day with a gentle soap and dry them completely with a soft towel. Avoid rubbing and dry them with gentle strokes. Poor circulation and diabetic neuropathy can minimize the function of the moisturizing glands in your feet. Winter weather and heaters can make dryness worse. Use a moisturizer on your feet after washing them each day. Stay away from the areas between your toes. Talk to your doctor about the best moisturizers to use on your feet. Consider adding a humidifier to your home and office.
- Just as you might not feel extreme cold due to diabetic neuropathy, you also might not feel excessive heat. Be cautious when you use heating pads, foot baths and electric blankets. Avoid warming your feet on the radiator. Always check the temperature of your bath water with a bath thermometer or your hand. It is best to avoid heated foot massaging devices, hot water bottles and heating pads. Excessively hot items can cause a second- or third-degree burn and other foot problems. If you burn your feet, let your doctor know right away and seek immediate treatment.
- Keep your blood sugar levels under control. Because your feet get a lot of wear and tear, they are often one of the first signs of poor diabetic control. Take medications as prescribed and monitor your blood sugar regularly. Report highs and lows to your doctor right away. Exercise at least 5 days a week for a minimum of 30 minutes each day. Eat a well-balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, lean meat and fish, low-fat dairy and whole grains. Maintain a healthy weight, avoid smoking and minimize your intake of alcohol.
Treat your feet well all winter and they will be good to you. Keep them warm and dry without getting them overheated. Maintain proper blood sugar levels and report any irregularities to your doctor immediately.