The winter months can be some of the most enjoyable of the year. Think blankets of snow, a cup of hot coffee, sitting by a warm fireplace reading a good book and spending time with family and friends during the holidays.
Although the season brings plenty of cheer and a break from outside chores, for diabetics, it also provides elements that make caring for their feet more challenging. Decreased circulation, dry skin and spending time exposed to cold and wet conditions put diabetic feet at a higher risk for developing an infection or serious foot condition.
“It’s the time of year when diabetics should pamper their feet and keep them as comfortable as possible,” explained Dr. Craig Beaudis, a podiatric physician at Ankle & Foot Care Centers. “The best gift you can give your feet this year is taking time to treat them right.”
Dr. Beaudis and the rest of the expert podiatrists at Ankle & Foot Care Centers offer these tips for taking care of your feet during the colder months:
BE SHOE SIZE WISE
Don’t settle for shoes and socks that are a half-size too big or small. Winter shoes, like boots, are more restrictive than summer footwear, but your toes need room to breathe. Make sure your toes aren’t cramped and that you don’t tie your shoes too tight. If you can’t find the right shoes in the store, check out diabetic footwear that is specially made to keep your foot cushioned and protected.
DAILY FOOT CHECK
Get a shower. Check. Brush your teeth. Check. Look at your feet. Check.
The most important few minutes of your day could be those spent looking at your feet. Diabetics should check their feet every day, searching for cuts, blisters, irritation, fungus or any other abnormalities. Don’t just check the tops, either – don’t forget the side, back and bottom of your foot. If you can’t get a good look at all the areas of the foot, we recommend having a family member or friend take a look, so nothing gets missed.
Give your toenails some attention, too, noting any discoloration or thickening. If you have difficulty noticing if things are changing, keep a photo log of your foot checks.
If you have neuropathy, these daily foot checks are vital. But, all diabetic feet run the risk of problems if not treated early. You are the first line of defense in preventing serious issues – if you see something questionable, call one the foot and ankle specialists at Ankle & Foot Care Centers.
Dry skin is one of the unwanted effects of the cold, dry winter air. Just like chapped lips and cracked hands need help, so do your dry feet. It’s important to keep your feet dry, clean and moisturized during the winter. Find a nice lotion to apply to the top and bottom of your feet. But don’t get it between your toes – that could increase the risk of foot fungus. If moisturizer does get between your toes, make sure to thoroughly rub it in so no lotion is visible.
Creams you’d find at the drug store would do the trick, but if you have diabetic neuropathy, you should ask a podiatrist about a diabetic foot care cream that may help even more.
KEEP ‘EM COVERED
Going barefoot is a bad idea. Not only should diabetics keep their feet warm in the winter, they need to protect them. House shoes or slippers are recommended and comfortable. Diabetic slippers for men and women offer protection and support and can accommodate custom orthotics.
If you don’t have slippers, at least wear socks. Diabetic socks encourage healthy circulation and keep feet dry and fungus-free. Cotton or acrylic socks (not nylon) prevent irritation and reduce moisture. Remember: Never use heating pads or hot water to keep feet warm. Put on a pair of socks or slippers, instead.
The American Diabetic Association recommends at least one diabetic foot exam per year for anyone not already seeing a podiatrist regularly. For more information on diabetic foot care or to schedule a foot check, call 888-881-8805.