When winter hits, those with diabetes need to pay attention to their feet to reduce the risk of diabetic foot ulcers. Cold weather brings with it additional risks, including numbness, which can further reduce the feeling in the feet caused by neuropathy.
Numbness can cause unsteady walking, which can also increase the risk of injury and make it almost impossible to notice when a sore or blister has developed. If left untreated, any sores or wounds can become infected.
With these winter risks in mind, there are measures you can take to maintain the health of your feet during the winter. Check out these simple tips.
Snow leads to moisture in your shoes, which is a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Your winter footwear should be waterproof to keep any snow, slush, and puddles away from your feet.
Take your wet or damp socks immediately and towel dry your feet as soon as possible if snow, rain, or slush happens to breach your footwear. Make sure to pay close attention to the area between the toes- this can be bacteria’s favorite place.
The cold can also increase numbness in your feet, so it’s essential to wear the right socks. Consider diabetic thermal socks, which are designed to keep your feet warm and absorb moisture while improving blood flow.
Poor circulation often decreases the natural moisturizing glands in those who have diabetes. Circulation problems leave the feet more susceptible to dryness and cracking.
While you want to keep your feet away from external moisture, it’s also important to keep your skin moisturized. The dry winter air combined with the heating in your car and house can make your feet dry and lead to cracking.
Make sure to be on the lookout for red, shiny areas when you do your inspections. These signs mean that your skin could be breaking down.
Make sure not to moisturize between the toes, as this added moisture can cause bacteria growth.
Moisturize your feet every day to keep them smooth and reduce the risk of cracking that can turn into a sore. Ask your podiatrist about the right foot care regimen and lotion for you.
Most people want to stay indoors when it’s cold out. However, neglecting your exercise routine is never a good idea. Staying active throughout the winter helps you keep your weight and diabetes under control. Exercise can lower blood glucose levels by making your body more sensitive to insulin and increases blood flow to the limbs, improves sensation, and helps reduce the risk of diabetic foot ulcers.
Make sure to wear the right footwear and bundle up when exercising outside. Also, talk to your doctor about creating an indoor exercise plan that can help you stay healthy without braving the cold.
Make sure that your feet are never exposed to things that can put them in harm’s way. Walking barefoot, whether outside or in your home, is not recommended. If you happen to step on something that cuts your foot, you could be at risk for a serious infection.
Likewise, you should avoid direct high-heat to your feet, including hot bathwater. The safest way to minimize dryness and the risk of burning your feet is to keep it away from areas that are too hot.
Numbness from neuropathy means that diabetic patients may not feel when their feet are burning, which can result in second-or third-degree burns. Before stepping into a bath, test the water first with your hands or thermometer.
To keep your feet warm during the winter, ask your podiatrist to recommend socks that keep your feet both warm and dry, along with other products aimed at keeping diabetic feet warm and healthy.
In any season, it’s important to wear well-fitted shoes with supportive soles and a wide toe-box. During winter, though, extra consideration should be given to the type of sock and how the weather will affect the feet.
When choosing the right socks, make sure that you opt for diabetic socks. Non-diabetic socks with seams or a constrictive stretch can cause more significant problems, like decreased circulation to the extremities.
Likewise, make sure your shoes fit right. Constrictive shoes can also negatively impact blood flow.
You should also look for socks that have a high degree of moisture protection and keep your feet warm and comfortable.
Patients with diabetes should see a foot and ankle specialist regularly as a preventive measure. Proper foot care is necessary to lessen the chances of foot issues, and a specialist can monitor the health of the foot and notice alarming changes to provide the appropriate treatment.
Anyone with diabetes should inspect their feet daily and look carefully at each area of the foot, including in between the toes. Be on the lookout for breaks in the skin, discharge, changes in color, odors, and painful corns or calluses. Any changes in your feet should be described to your podiatrist so that he or she can determine the best course of treatment.
Before putting on your socks, make sure that they are clean and dry. You should also check your shoes to make sure there are no stones or rough edges before you put your feet in them.
Because ingrown toenails can be a major cause of infection, you should keep your toenails trimmed and clean. Your podiatrist will be able to perform this service for you if you are unable, but your toenails should be taken care of to prevent the risk of infection.