Diabetic Foot Care
Nerve damage that affects the legs and feet is a common complication of diabetes.
About 50% of Americans who have diabetes experience nerve damage that can affect the legs and feet, triggering symptoms that often include foot pain, sores and loss of feeling. Careful monitoring and regular preventive care is essential for diabetes patients to manage symptoms and prevent serious complications from occurring.
Here are a few general foot care guidelines that are recommended for individuals with diabetes:
- Regularly bathe or shower using lukewarm (not hot) water
- Inspect feet on a daily basis
- Keep feet moisturized, but avoid applying lotion in between the toes
- Wear socks that are clean and dry
- Avoid walking barefoot
- Wiggle toes periodically throughout the day and elevate feet up when sitting
- Shake out shoes before putting them on
- Seek professional medical treatment for corns and calluses
- Receive regular foot exams
Diabetes-related nerve damage is referred to as diabetic neuropathy. If not properly managed, diabetic neuropathy can increase the risk of infections and muscle damage. Diabetes is also linked to peripheral vascular disease—a condition characterized by poor blood flow in the legs that can lead to infection, ulcers and tissue death (gangrene).
While some complications of diabetes can be managed at home (under a physician’s guidance), it’s important to promptly seek medical care if you experience:
- Burning, pain or tingling in your feet
- A change in foot shape, color or temperature
- Pain or cramping in your legs or buttocks during physical activity
- Loss of foot sensation or ability to feel heat, cold or pain
- Unusually dry, cracked skin on the feet
- New foot blisters, sores, ulcers, fungal infections or ingrown toenails
A key component of treatment for diabetes-related foot complications—sometimes simply called “diabetic foot”—is effectively managing the diabetes itself. A patient who successfully controls his or her diabetes and adheres to medical guidance is less likely to experience neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease. When diabetic foot complications do occur, though, specific treatment options include:
- Wound care for foot ulcers and other sores
- Medication to help reduce nerve pain and prevent complications
- Specialized foot dressings that stimulate healing and new, healthy skin growth
- Surgical revascularization to improve blood flow in the legs
- Hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatment to promote wound healing
Tampa General Hospital features a diverse team of vascular surgeons, endocrinologists, neurologists, internists and other experts who collaborate to provide world-class, integrative care for diabetes and its complications.