It’s well known that people with diabetes are more susceptible to developing certain foot problems, including nerve damage in the feet and reduced blood circulation to the feet, than people who don’t have diabetes. Numbness caused by nerve damage can make foot injuries more likely to happen, since heat, cold, or pressure on the feet may not be noticed. Nerve damage, reduced blood circulation, and high blood glucose can make wounds slower to heal, and they also make them more likely to become infected. An infection that is not treated right away can cause very serious problems. This is why taking care of your feet is very much a part of managing your diabetes.
The basics of taking care of your feet haven’t changed: They include managing your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels; looking at your feet every day (or having someone else look at them for you if you can’t see or reach them easily) so that you will recognize any changes; and seeking help from a medical professional early if you see wounds or other changes in your feet.
While the basics haven’t changed, there are some new tools to help you carry out your daily inspections and to keep the skin on your feet healthy and moisturized. There are also a number of new tools for your foot-care professional to help treat any wounds that develop in spite of your best self-care. This article describes a sampling of those tools.
Checking your feet every day for swelling, redness, blisters, or cuts is invaluable. But sometimes the first signs of foot problems are not visible. Sometimes an area below the surface of the skin of the foot begins to heat up, or become inflamed, before any visible sign appears. This can happen if your shoe — or an object in your shoe such as a pebble — puts abnormal pressure on a part of your foot, causing inflammation deep inside. If you can’t see or feel this early inflammation — which is often the case — you continue to walk on it, often making it worse.
But now there are products that can help you detect a foot problem before it is visible by detecting temperature changes in the feet. One of these products is TempStat.
TempStat uses specialized liquid crystal technology to monitor the temperature on the bottoms of your feet. The device looks like a home scale with a green area on either side where you place your feet and a magnified mirror in the middle, which you can use to look at the bottoms of your feet. To use the TempStat you sit on a chair or other surface, place your bare feet on the green areas of the device, and wait 60 seconds. During that time, you look at the tops of your feet for any changes. You then pick up your feet and look at the prints on the green areas to see whether there are any visible differences between them. Differences can indicate points of high pressure and inflammation, both of which are predictive of where a wound may develop in the future.
If you see any differences in your footprints, stay off your feet for an hour, then check again. If there is still a difference, call your health-care provider immediately.
TempStat is approved by the FDA to identify areas of inflammation. It sells for about $100 and is only available by prescription. At this time it is not covered by health insurance.
It is not unusual for people with diabetes to have dry skin. Left untreated, dry skin is not only uncomfortable, but it can also lead to cracks in the skin that allow in infection-causing bacteria. Once infected, small cracks can develop into slow-healing wounds. You can prevent and treat dry skin by using moisturizing lotions or creams.
Moisturizers that contain lactic acid may be particularly helpful for dry feet because lactic acid helps the skin retain moisture. One brand-name product that contains a high percentage of lactic acid is AmLactin Foot Cream Therapy. For best results, use AmLactin Foot Cream Therapy twice a day on clean, dry feet. Do not apply AmLactin Foot Cream Therapy — or any other moisturizer — between your toes.