Foot care advice if you have diabetes

A healthcare professional examines the foot of a patient

If you have diabetes, taking good care of your feet can prevent complications from developing. Here are a few simple tips that you can take to reduce your risk.

The most important action you can take is to keep your blood sugar within acceptable levels and, if you have Type 2 diabetes treated with tablets, to take your medication as prescribed and not to skip a dose no matter how well you might feel at the time. If you have Type 1 diabetes and regularly inject insulin, or if you have Type 2 diabetes and have been prescribed insulin, follow your doctor’s instructions regarding its proper use. This applies also to any other important prescribed medication such as tablets to reduce your cholesterol or your blood pressure.

Regular aerobic exercise is an essential element of keeping fit and well. This does not need to be particularly strenuous but it helps if you are slightly breathless while you are exercising, but not for too long afterwards. Exercise regularly, daily if you can find the time, and for at least 30 minutes. If you find it difficult to find the time, then consider walking part of the way to work if you use public transport by getting off the bus, train, tram or underground a couple of stops earlier. It might even save you a bit of money.

Try to eat a healthy diet with plenty of fresh fruit, dietary fibre and a mix of coloured vegetables, and a relatively low intake of carbohydrates. Avoid refined sugar and especially sweet fizzy drinks. For breakfast consider oats and whole meal bread rather than white bread and fried food such as bacon, eggs and sausages.

If you smoke, stop if you can. Smoking is particularly damaging to a person with diabetes. People with diabetes already have an increased risk of heart disease, which is further elevated if you smoke. Diabetes acts in several ways to damage the heart. High glucose levels affect the walls of the arteries making them more likely to develop fatty deposits which in turn makes it more difficult for the blood to circulate. People with diabetes are more likely to have high blood pressure and high levels of fats such as triglycerides. They are also more likely to have lower levels of so-called cardio-protective HDL cholesterol.

Check your feet regularly, particularly the soles of your feet, or get someone to check them for you if you find this task difficult. If your feet seem dry and the skin is prone to cracking then apply a non-greasy moisturiser and do this regularly. If there is no improvement or your feet and toes seem insensate and you lack feeling then you should tell your doctor or other healthcare professional who may refer you for specialist tests. If you develop thick calluses or you notice any redness, sores or blisters, or experience any pain in your feet, then you should also report these findings to your doctor or other healthcare professional.

Follow these simple foot care tips to properly care for your feet:

  • Wash your feet daily with non-irritating soap and warm water;
  • Avoid soaking your feet;
  • Dry your feet completely after bathing, paying special attention to the areas between the toes;
  • Avoid applying moisturiser to the areas between your toes.