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How to Prevent Diabetic Foot Problems

Contributed by Dr. Kathleen Cronin

Did you know that diabetes is the leading cause of foot problems in the United States? Every year there are people who lose their toes, part of their foot or even their leg because of diabetes. By following these helpful tips, you can help prevent diabetic foot problems.

Look overperson tying laces on comfortable running shoes your feet at the end of each day

Check your feet for reddened areas, cuts, or scrapes that could become infected. If you cannot see the bottom of your feet, use a mirror or ask someone for help. See your health care provider at the first sign of any foot problems.

Keep your feet clean and dry

Wash your feet every day with soap and warm (not hot) water. Then dry your feet carefully, especially between the toes. After your feet are dry, put cream or lotion recommended by your provider on your feet. This will keep the skin soft and free of scales. Do not put the cream or lotion between your toes. It may keep the skin in that area too moist. If your feet sweat a lot, keep them dry. Dust them with talcum powder.

Take care of your toenails

  • Cut your toenails carefully, straight across

  • Do not cut the sides or the cuticles

  • Clean your nails carefully

  • If your nails are hard to trim lightly, file them daily

Keep your feet warm

Wear clean cotton socks to bed if your feet are cold. Because you may not feel hot and cold in your feet, you may burn your feet accidently. To prevent accidental burns:

  • Avoid using hot water bottles or electric heaters to warm your feet

  • Avoid putting your feet where they could be burned

    • on hot sand at the beach

    • in hot bath water or whirlpools

    • near a fireplace

Wear slippers, good shoes and clean socks

  • woman resting with sock covered feet propped upCheck to make sure that your shoes fit well

  • Never walk barefoot

  • Keep slippers by your bed and use them when you get up at night

  • Wear soft leather shoes

  • Before putting your shoes on make sure to check your shoes for torn linings or things that should not be there

  • Ask your healthcare provider about diabetic shoes

  • Always wear clean socks

  • Change your socks every day

How you can be partner in your own care

  • Follow the above guidelines

  • Protect your feet from injury

  • Keep your blood sugar under good control

  • Do not smoke

    • Smoking causes poor blood flow to the feet, which slows the healing of sores and can cause gangrene

    • If you need assistance in stopping, contact your healthcare provider

    • There is help available for you to stop smoking

If you have a problem with your feet, be sure to talk with your healthcare team. They can help. Sometimes the special skills of a podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon are needed.

Learn More

Diabetic Foot (MedlinePlus)