Anne Osmer Reporting
Diabetes puts you at risk for a number of health complications, including disease of the nervous system, which can lead to impaired sensation or pain in the feet.
According to the American Diabetes Association, there are 20.8 million people in the U.S. with diabetes. Sixty to 70 percent suffer from nervous system damage, and nearly 30 percent of diabetics age 40 and older suffer from at least partial loss of sensation in the feet.
Loss of foot sensation is a big problem for diabetics, because they may not notice a sore should one develop. A foot sore or foot ulcer can invite infection – which diabetics are already prone to – and in severe cases, may eventually lead to amputation.
Use of special socks and shoes can help prevent initial sores, said Sandra Pisarski, retail operations manager for Henry Ford Health Products, who recently introduced a new line of shoes for diabetics. The shoes come with individually customized inserts that patients are fitted for and require a script, although people may purchase non-customized shoes as well.
“Diabetics do not heal quickly,” Pisarski said, noting that the special shoes and socks are made without seams that can irritate the skin.
The shoes cost anywhere from around $100 without customization, up to $300 and more with the special inserts. Pisarski said diabetic shoes may be included in Medicare and other health insurance benefits, and that patients should check with their doctor and health plans.
Here are some tips from the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse on caring for your feet:
• Wash your feet in warm water every day. Make sure the water is not too hot by testing the temperature with your elbow. Do not soak your feet. Dry your feet well, especially between your toes.
• Look at your feet every day to check for cuts, sores, blisters, redness, calluses, or other problems. Checking every day is even more important if you have nerve damage or poor blood flow. If you cannot bend over or pull your feet up to check them, use a mirror. If you cannot see well, ask someone else to check your feet.
• If your skin is dry, rub lotion on your feet after you wash and dry them. Do not put lotion between your toes.
• File corns and calluses gently with an emery board or pumice stone. Do this after your bath or shower.
• Cut your toenails once a week or when needed. Cut toenails when they are soft from washing. Cut them to the shape of the toe and not too short. File the edges with an emery board.
• Always wear slippers or shoes to protect your feet from injuries.
• Always wear socks or stockings to avoid blisters. Do not wear socks or knee-high stockings that are too tight below your knee.
• Wear shoes that fit well. Shop for shoes at the end of the day when your feet are bigger. Break in shoes slowly. Wear them 1 to 2 hours each day for the first few weeks.
• Before putting your shoes on, feel the insides to make sure they have no sharp edges or objects that might injure your feet.
• Tell your doctor right away about any foot problems.
• Ask your doctor to look at your feet at each diabetes checkup. To make sure your doctor checks your feet, take off your shoes and socks before your doctor comes into the room.
Medline Plus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the NIH, has an interactive tutorial on diabetic foot care. Click here.
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