During the long winter months, it is especially important for diabetics to take certain steps to keep their feet healthy. Winter moisture, cold and dryness can easily cause numbness and decreased circulation, increasing the risk of a diabetes foot problem.
To keep diabetic feet healthy through the winter and avoid problems, Dr. John Viscovich, a podiatrist with Westchester Health, offers the following essential tips for proper foot care:
1) Inspect Your Feet Every Day
People with diabetes need to have a daily protocol for foot inspection. Look carefully at all the pressure areas of your feet and between your toes. Inspect for any breaks in the skin, discharge, changes in color, changes in odor and/or painful corns or calluses. Let your doctor know about any changes you find.
2) Choose the Right Footwear
If you have diabetes, winter cold and dampness combined with decreased circulation in your feet can increase your risk for a foot ulcer. To combat this, make sure your winter shoes and boots provide warmth, protection from snow and ice, and proper padding. Wear wool socks, which provide cushioning protection and warmth. You might also consider wearing polypropylene stockings under your socks to wick away moisture.
3) Keep Your Feet Dry
Moisture that collects between your socks, feet and between your toes for too long allows potentially problematic bacteria to gather. When your feet get wet from winter weather, you need to dry them carefully and completely, including between your toes. Inspect your feet for areas that are pale in color, which could mean they haven’t been thoroughly dried and still contain too much moisture. Also, it’s vital to change out of wet socks as soon as possible.
4) Moisturizing Is Essential
Diabetes nerve damage and poor circulation can cause decreased function of the moisturizing glands of your feet. Dry winter heat (from a fire, electric space heater or a car heater blowing on your feet), can make dryness worse and lead to skin breakdown. Be on the lookout for red, shiny areas when you do your daily foot inspection.
5) Trim Your Toenails
Untrimmed or infected toenails are a frequent cause of infections and ulcers and can potentially lead to amputation. Ask your doctor or podiatrist how to trim your toenails correctly or make an appointment to have him/her trim them.
6) Never Burn Your Feet
Nerve damage in your feet caused by diabetes can make keeping them warm in winter risky because you may not feel when they are getting dangerously cold. Be very careful when using electric blankets, hot soaks and heating pads, or warming your feet on a radiator—you could seriously burn your feet and not know it.
7) Control Your Blood Sugar
Keeping your diabetes under control is one of the most important aspects of diabetic foot care. Because your feet absorb much of the weight and daily wear and tear of your body, they are one of the first places substandard diabetes control will show up. Work with your doctor for successful ways to control your sugar. Also, monitor your diet, maintain your weight (maybe lose weight), exercise regularly and avoid smoking.
If you have a foot problem of any kind in any season, come in and see me
If you have diabetes and are concerned about the condition of your feet, ankles and toes, have pain in your feet or heels, or are experiencing any other problems with your feet, please call (914) 232-1919 to make an appointment to see me at one of my Westchester Health offices. I’ll examine your heels, ankles and feet, evaluate your condition, and together with you, determine the best course of treatment for your specific condition. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.