What to Check for When You’re Checking Your Feet
If you have diabetes, you probably hear and read that you should check your feet every day. What exactly should you be checking for? And how should you take care of your feet?
Inspecting your feet
“Changes in skin color are important,” says Dr. Richard Hansen, a podiatrist at Allina’s Hastings Clinic. “Red skin can indicate infection, and darkened or black skin could mean there’s dead tissue.
“Drainage, especially that’s white or yellow, is another indication there could be infection, especially drainage that has an odor. Swelling can indicate infection as well. And especially for people who have numbness, or diabetic neuropathy, swelling can indicate a spontaneous fracturing of the foot, which is called a charcot.”
Toenails shouldn’t be too long or too short, and you should cut them straight across. Observe corns and callouses for signs of infection and ulceration.
“Inspect your feet every day for cuts and open sores,” Dr. Hansen continues. “If there’s no progress in healing within three days, call your doctor.”
“You should also call your doctor if you notice any numbness, burning or tingling. And if your feet are warmer than usual or hot, that could also be a sign of a charcot, especially if there’s swelling.”
Bathe your feet every day in lukewarm water. If you have numbness in your feet, test the water temperature with your hands. Avoid harsh deodorant soap, because it dries out the skin.
What about soaking your feet?
“People used to think soaking the feet was good, but it dries them out,” says Dr. Hansen. “You don’t want dry skin. Use a moisturizer every day, either a lanolin-based lotion or a lotion that’s 12 percent amylactin.
“Never go barefoot, not even at home,” continues Dr. Hansen. “And wear seamless socks. Buy shoes later in the day, because your foot swells as the day goes on. What feels good at ten in the morning might not feel so good later in the afternoon. If your feet are two different sizes, buy to fit the larger foot.
“Always check inside your shoes, especially if you have numbness and if there are small children around. I had a patient whose foot had to be amputated because of a toy left inside his shoe.”
Mark Zipper, Director of Mental Health Services, Allina Medical Clinics