7 Tips for Preventing Wounds on Your Feet
Everywhere you go, you go feet first. Your feet are on the front lines, absorbing the brunt of the impact with the ground upon each step you take. Unfortunately, that can make them vulnerable to cuts, scrapes, and sores—especially if you have diabetes, poor circulation, neuropathy, or related issues.
But while foot wounds are a common problem—one so severe that they are the precursor to almost 100,000 amputations each year nationwide—that does not mean they are inevitable. In fact, almost all foot wounds are preventable. And even if a wound does develop, quick action can often prevent a serious infection.
Here are 7 tips to help you keep your feet wound-free and happy:
Check Your Feet Daily
This is a big one. Make a habit of checking your feet at least once per day, at a regular time that you won’t forget—such as right before you go to bed.
Open sores usually start out as small abnormalities, such as a cut, scrape, or blister. So check for anything that looks out of the ordinary. Even if it seems insignificant to you at the time, make a note and continue to track its progress. If problems don’t start to improve on their own within a few days, or get worse, call us immediately.
If you have diabetes or poor circulation, small cuts and scrapes won’t always heal, or they won’t heal fast enough to prevent infection. And if you also suffer from reduced nerve function, you might not feel any pain – or even notice the problem at all – unless you are making the effort to check every day.
Don’t just look, but feel along areas you might not be able to see. You may want to ask a loved one for help if you need it, or tools such as selfie sticks or small mirrors can be useful in seeing hard-to-reach areas.
Keep Your Feet Clean and Moisturized
Washing your feet daily helps keep away various skin infections and other problems. Moisturizing, meanwhile, helps keep skin from drying out and cracking (a common issue for people with diabetes), which can sometimes develop into sores.
When you shower or bathe, wash your feet gently with warm water and be sure to dry them completely. Pay special attention to the areas between your toes, where excess moisture has an opportunity to accumulate and damage your skin if it stays trapped there.
On the other side of the coin, moisturize your skin to keep it from drying out and cracking, which can open the way for ulcers. Once again, though, do not apply too much moisturizer between your toes! Moisturize; don’t swamp.
Always Wear Shoes and Socks …
If you have diabetes or are otherwise at risk of developing foot wounds, we usually recommend that you wear shoes and socks at almost all times, even if you are indoors.
It might seem like overkill, but going barefoot does significantly increase your risk of a foot injury, whether from stepping on a pebble, piece of glass, or other sharp and painful object. And again, if you also have symptoms of neuropathy, you might not realize you’ve been injured until hours later—even if you’re checking your feet daily.
If you’re headed out to the beach, pool, or public showers, bring along a set of shower or water shoes. This will provide some protection against foreign objects, as well as fungal or viral infections that may reside on contaminated surfaces.
… But Choose Your Shoes Wisely
Of course, not just any pair of shoes and socks will do. Footwear that’s too tight, too loose, unsupportive, pinches your toes, or causes you any kind of discomfort are ones to avoid. Make sure the shoes you wear have the proper padding and comfort for your feet.
For certain people, diabetic shoes, custom orthotics, inserts, and even socks with seamless material can help provide the support needed without risks of irritation. Ask us about what kinds of footwear may be best for your needs.
Trim Your Nails Carefully
Cutting yourself with your own toenails is a risk and—let’s face it—an embarrassing one at that. Manage your toenails with careful trimming, making sure not to cut too deeply.
We recommend cutting relatively straight across, without rounding the corners and without cutting the nail too short. File sharp edges down to your preference. Nails that are cut too short or too rounded in the corners are more likely to become ingrown.
If you have questions about the best way to trim your toenails, or whether you should have your toenails trimmed professionally, please don’t hesitate to contact us. If your toenails need to be trimmed by someone else, go to a podiatrist—do not rely on a salon.
Manage Your Underlying Conditions Well
All the tips above are about observing, protecting, and caring about your feet. But the truth is, the best long-term strategy to prevent foot wounds is taking care of your entire body and managing your underlying conditions well.
After all, it’s not a diabetes diagnosis in and of itself that creates the risk to your feet. It’s the uncontrolled high blood sugar levels that cause inflammation and deterioration that restricts blood vessels and harms nerves. Staying on top of your condition helps keep your feet more resilient and resistant to injury, sores, and infections.
This advice probably isn’t new to you, but always remember:
- Regularly check and control your blood sugar levels.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Exercise regularly.
- Don’t smoke or abuse alcohol. (Smoking in particular is especially harmful to circulation in the feet.)
- Maintain a healthy body weight.
Schedule an Annual Diabetic Foot Care Checkup
We highly recommend all people with diabetes get comprehensive foot checkups at least once per year, even if you have no history of foot problems.
Why? Because seeing a podiatrist helps you keep things that way! We’re able to screen your feet for the early warning signs of neuropathy, circulatory trouble, and other common complications that imperil your feet. And we can also help ensure you get the tools, advice, and guidance you need to protect yourself—for example, diabetic shoes and socks, dietary supplements, and treatment for emerging foot problems.
Your Experts in Wound Care
Even when all the advice in the world is followed for prevention, things can still happen. If they do, we’re here to help.
Never hesitate to contact us if you have an injury on your foot that doesn’t seem to be healing well after a couple days, or any other signs of trouble such as pain, redness, swelling, or hotness to the touch.
The sooner a potential problem is discovered, the easier treatment can be. We are fully prepared to clean out wounds and ulcers when needed, but we’d much rather our patients never have to face such problems in the first place.
If you live with diabetes or have other risks for ulcers or serious wounds developing on your feet, it’s best to have your feet regularly checked—at least once per year! Call us at (816) 246-4222 and let’s discuss your best plans for prevention.