It is important for people with diabetes to check their feet daily and take precautions to avoid foot complications. The Podiatry Department from Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group, shares tips.
To minimise risk of diabetes-related foot complications:
1. Do not expose feet to high or low temperatures
Do not use heat pads, hairdryer or hot foot soaks to warm your feet, and ice packs or cold foot soaks to cool your feet. They can result in skin burn injuries.
It is common for people with diabetes to develop a loss of sensation in the feet. When this happens, the person is not able to sense the change in temperature as a person with normal sensation would be able to. Thus, it is dangerous to use heat pads, hairdryer, hot foot soaks or light therapy to warm their feet as they may burn their feet.
Likewise, the usage of ice packs or cold foot soaks is also not recommended. The skin tissue gets damaged when the skin comes into contact with very cold objects which may lead to an ice burn.
Also, avoid soaking the feet for prolonged periods of time as this could cause the skin to wrinkle and break down. Foot basins can also contain germs which can enter skin breaks in the feet and cause infections.
Related article: Diabetes foot care – 10 Easy steps to healthy feet
What you should do instead
If your feet feel cold, wear a pair of thick cotton socks to warm them up.
For foot soaks, check the temperature of the water with your elbow or get your family member/caregiver to test the temperature of the water prior to placing your feet into the water.
2. Do not walk barefoot or wear slippers
Walking barefoot or wearing slippers exposes your feet to sharp objects in the surrounding environment, increasing your risk of getting cuts or injuries. Germs can enter through the skin breaks and cause an infection.
This is especially so for those with a loss of sensation in their feet as they are unable to feel the cut or injury and leave the skin break untreated.
Related article: Diabetes food tips – What to eat and avoid
What you should do instead
When going out, it is important to always wear a pair of covered shoes. Shoes should be worn together with cotton socks to absorb sweat. Ensure that socks are changed after each use for hygiene purposes.
At home, wear cushioning home slippers to protect your feet. Also, check your feet with a mirror daily to ensure there are no cuts, injuries or changes from the norm.
3. Do not clean foot wounds with seawater and/or go to a fish spa
Seawater and fish spas are not sterile and contain many harmful germs and foreign particles. The risk of foot infection is high if wounds are washed with seawater.
Fish in the fish spa nibble the dead skin of people's feet, thus germs from one person can easily spread to another in this manner.
Related article: More tips on how to avoid diabetes foot complications
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