Less than two months ago, COVID-19 turned life upside-down for most of us here in the Bay Area—and the rest of the country, for that matter. Maybe it’s only now that you finally feel like you’re starting to settle into a new “normal” routine.
Well, if you have diabetes, make sure that your daily foot care doesn’t get lost in the shuffle!
As you probably already know, diabetes can cause major problems and complications for your feet, especially if you develop an ulcer. And while there’s never a good time to require emergency care, this might be one of the absolute worst.
Fortunately, disciplined daily attention and care is by far the most effective way to prevent diabetic foot complications—and it doesn’t have to be difficult, either! You just have to stick with it.
Here are the most important insights.
Inspect Your Feet Every Day
Hopefully, you were already doing this before COVID-19 became a pressing concern—and you’ve continued to keep the habit!
A quick recap on why this is so important:
If you have diabetes, chances are high that in time you will develop some level of impaired nerve function and circulation in your feet. This means you might not notice cuts and other injuries when they happen (due to reduced sensation), and your body is less equipped to heal those injuries and fight off resulting infections.
Physically inspecting your feet each and every day is the best way to ensure that small problems never have enough time to become large ones. And developing this habit as early as possible—even if you have no previous history of foot problems—is the best way to safeguard against future issues.
To help set a routine, choose a consistent time of day to do your inspection—perhaps right after your morning shower, or right before bed.
If you find anything that isn’t “normal” for your feet, please call our office immediately for our recommendations. Even “minor” injuries can become major ones, faster than you might think, if you don’t take the correct actions quickly.
Regular, healthy exercise is an essential component to regulating blood sugar levels. And the better you keep your sugar in check, the lower your risk of developing future complications with your feet (and throughout your body, for that matter).
This is one area where stay-at-home guidelines have really disrupted healthy routines, especially if you used to get most of your exercise from a job you can no longer go to, or from hobbies that are on hiatus (shopping, for example).
If your primary sources of exercise are no longer possible or advisable, it’s important to find new outlets for activity.
Just one caveat, though—if your feet are already weakened by diabetes, certain vigorous and high-impact activities (such as distance running) might be inadvisable due to increased risk of injury to the feet. Lower-impact outlets, such as brisk walking or riding your bicycle, may be wiser choices.
If you’re looking to build a new exercise plan that’s safe—both for your feet and for your overall health due to COVID-19—please reach out to our office or your primary care physician first for recommendations.
Wear Shoes (Even Indoors)
This isn’t new information: most people with diabetes are encouraged to wear their shoes even while indoors. This provides an extra layer of protection against accidental cuts and scrapes.
However, it’s fair to say that not everybody follows this guideline as closely as they should. And now that we’re all spending a lot more time at home, you might hardly be wearing shoes at all.
This is a problem for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a problem for the same reason not wearing shoes if you have diabetes has always been a problem: lack of protection against injury.
But it’s also a problem because you’re no longer getting the daily assists of cushioning, arch support, and shock absorption that your shoes provide. As a result, more weight and pressure get transferred directly to your feet, which also leads to increased pain, injury, and fatigue.
Maintain Good Personal Hygiene
With no place to go, and several days in a row cooped up at home, it can be tempting to skip the daily shower or other once-daily hygiene and skin care routines. Unfortunately, if you have diabetes, this can result in increased risk of cracked heels, skin and nail infections, and other conditions that are at best irritating and at worst dangerous.
Make sure you wash your feet daily with warm (NOT hot) water and mild soap. When you’re done, pat your feet dry thoroughly and apply a moisturizing cream or lotion. (Just skip the areas between the toes.) Finally, put on a clean pair of socks.
Other important hygiene tips:
- Change socks and shoes immediately if they get damp.
- Keep your toenails neatly trimmed, but never cut them too short or curve the corners in. (This increases the risk of ingrown toenails.)
- Avoid the temptation to self-treat a corn or callus unless we’ve specifically given you permission to do so. The risk of accidentally damaging your feet, especially with medicated pads or “bathroom surgery,” is usually far too high.
Call Us with Any Questions or Concerns
At a time like this, it’s vital that you are still able to access professional advice and high-quality care when you need it most.
Our hope is that, by following the guidelines above, you and your feet will stay in top shape for as long as the current situation lasts—and beyond! However, we know that, even despite your best efforts, further medical attention may be required for an emerging diabetic foot concern.
Our office is still open during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’re carefully following all recommended guidelines to keep our office as safe as possible. Should you develop a diabetic foot problem, you are better off coming to us instead of taking your chances at urgent care or the ER!
If you discovered a problem in your daily foot check, or just need our guidance about a question you have, be sure to call our office at (510) 647-3744, or connect with us online. We are here to help you!