Diabetes Self-Management Articles

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Foot Care
Drugstore Do’s and Don’t’s

by J. C. Tanenbaum, DPM

Even acid-free callus and corn home treatments are not recommended for people who have diabetes. Pumice stones and files are not sterile and can cause breaks in the skin if you rub too vigorously or remove too much skin. And whatever you do, don’t take a sharp blade to your feet. It’s just too easy to slip and cut yourself.

What if you develop a wart on your foot? Warts are caused by viruses that enter the skin directly. Warts that grow on the bottoms of the feet are often called plantar warts. Plantar warts may occur one at a time, or there can be hundreds of small warts on a person’s foot. Many times, warts resemble calluses, but they can often be distinguished by small black dots in the body of the wart. While most warts will eventually go away with no treatment, a wart on the bottom of your foot can make walking painful, so you may be eager to remove it. Just like callus and corn removers, however, over-the-counter wart removers contain acids and are not recommended for use by people with diabetes. Instead, ask your podiatrist about other options for getting rid of a plantar wart.

Wound care The drugstore is a good place to pick up two first-aid essentials: antibiotic ointment and adhesive bandages (such as Band-Aids). To treat a minor wound, first wash your hands with soap and water, then cleanse the wound with soap and water, rinse thoroughly, pat dry, and apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment with a cotton swab (such as a Q-tips cotton swab) and an adhesive bandage. If you see no appreciable improvement within 24 hours, consult your doctor or podiatrist immediately. Even if a wound appears to be closing up, if you see signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or pus, see your doctor or podiatrist.

As long as you are not allergic to latex, either fabric or plastic bandages will do. If your skin is very fragile, however, your doctor may advise you to use a gauze pad and paper tape in place of adhesive bandages or to cover wounds with a gauze bandage, taping the gauze to itself, rather than to your skin.

It is not necessary to buy any particular brand of antibiotic ointment; most have the same active components. However, when applying antibiotic ointment, it’s much better to use a cotton swab than your fingers. Using your fingers can contaminate both the wound and the tube of antibiotic ointment.

Toenail care For many people, the regular toenail trimmers or clippers sold at the drugstore are safe for home use. Toenails should be cut straight across or following the natural curve of the toe. Gently smoothing the toenails with an emery board after clipping can keep them from snagging on socks. When clipping or using an emery board on your toenails, never ”dig” into the sides of your nails. Doing so can break the skin, opening the door to fungal or bacterial infections. Improper clipping can also lead to ingrown toenails, which can also become infected and painful.

If you cannot see or reach your toenails easily, if your nails are hard to cut because they’re thick or you have a fungal nail infection, if the sides of your toenails curve into your skin, if you frequently have trouble clipping your toenails, or if you have reduced sensation or circulation in your feet, it may be a good idea to have your toenails cut regularly by a podiatrist. Toenail trimming every two or three months is usually recommended. In many instances, proper professional foot care can prevent problems from ever happening.

If you want a pedicure, buy your own inexpensive nail instrument set and bring it with you to your pedicurist. Make sure the technician knows never to cut your skin. For infection control, make sure the facility washes the basins that your feet may be placed in.

It’s only logical that drugstores would stock ingrown toenail remover products next to the toenail clippers, but are they an option for people who have diabetes? No, they are not. Just like callus, corn, and wart removers, they contain acids, which work by eating away the skin, in this case on the sides of the toenail. Eroding the skin allows bacteria to penetrate, which can lead to an infection.

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Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information provided on this Web site should not be construed as medical instruction. Consult appropriate health-care professionals before taking action based on this information.



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