Keeping Feet Healthy

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As you may know, people with diabetes have good reason to take good care of their feet. Having diabetes can damage the nerves and blood vessels that serve the feet and legs, which can lead to loss of sensation and reduced blood circulation, raising the risk of foot ulcers and even the need for amputation. However, you can significantly reduce your personal risk of foot problems with proper foot care. Here are some resources that can help you learn how to do just that.

Diabetes and feet

Inspecting your feet daily, treating minor problems early, and having your feet examined regularly by a professional can go a long way toward preventing serious complications. These resources can help you learn about the specifics of foot care when you have diabetes.

This page of the American Podiatric Medical Association’s Web site features information about the “Diabetes Is A Family Affair” campaign, which is meant to increase public awareness of the importance of regular foot screenings during medical checkups for people with diabetes. Information available on the Web site includes a “Diabetes Foot Facts” sheet, a list of frequently asked questions about diabetes and the feet, a quiz, and a list of questions to ask your primary-care doctor and your podiatrist. Some of these resources are available in Spanish as well.

These articles about foot care from the Diabetes Self-Management magazine archives can help you learn how to inspect your feet, care for them, evaluate footwear, find the right kind of foot-care specialist, and choose drugstore products that are appropriate to use on your feet when you have diabetes.

This informational booklet and Web page from the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse answers such questions as “How can diabetes hurt my feet?” and “What are common diabetes foot problems?” Featuring illustrations and easy-to-read language, this resource also provides instructions for foot care, guidance for bringing up foot problems at doctor visits, and Web sites and phone numbers for sources of more information about diabetes care.

You can find this page on the Internet at or order free single copies of this and other diabetes booklets by calling NDIC at (800) 860-8747, faxing them at (703) 738-4929, e-mailing them at, or writing them at National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, 1 Information Way, Bethesda, MD 20892-3560.

Information about PAD

Peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, occurs when arteries in the legs become narrowed or clogged with fatty plaque, resulting in reduced blood flow to the legs and feet. It can cause muscle pain and cramping when walking and can lead to foot ulcers and amputation. PAD is 20 times more common in people with diabetes than the rest of the population. These resources can help people at risk prevent the condition or manage it if it occurs.

The PAD Coalition is an alliance of health organizations that has the goal of raising public awareness about PAD. Click on “Patient Education” (under “Resources”) for documents featuring “Life Saving Tips” on topics such as smoking and PAD, foot care and PAD, managing diabetes and PAD, and special treatments for PAD. Some of the documents have worksheets to fill in with important numbers and treatment goals.

Developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) in partnership with the PAD Coalition, this national awareness campaign aims to educate the public and health-care providers about PAD and related cardiovascular diseases. The Web site includes educational materials in English and Spanish; click on “About P.A.D.” for information about the condition, symptoms, diagnosis, and how to lower your risk.

You can also contact the NHLBI to order a fact sheet about PAD by calling (301) 592-8573. The fact sheet costs $1.25 plus shipping and handling. Alternatively, it can be viewed online at

A partner organization in the PAD Coalition, the Vascular Disease Foundation (VDF) has its own Web site with extensive information about many vascular diseases, including PAD. You can visit their Web page to find information on what PAD is, symptoms of PAD, risk factors, tests used to diagnose the condition, treatment methods, and more. You can also receive information, including VDF’s free newsletter Keeping in Circulation, by calling (866) PAD-INFO (723-4636). Past newsletters can be downloaded and viewed as PDF documents at

Finding doctors and screenings

The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with diabetes have a comprehensive foot exam once a year. It suggests that people who smoke or have had foot or leg complications see a specialist (such as a podiatrist), and that all people with diabetes over the age of 50 be screened for PAD. These resources can help you find a podiatrist and a PAD screening site.

If you click on “Find a Podiatrist” on APMA’s homepage, you will be taken to an online feature that allows you to search for a specialist by name or location. Listed results provide contact information for doctors and tell you where they completed their podiatric education.

Legs for Life is a community health and public information program that was founded in 1997 by the Society of Interventional Radiology. It runs a national free screening program for people who may be at risk for PAD. Free screenings are offered at hundreds of sites across the United States every September during National Screening Month for PAD Leg Pain.

From the Legs for Life homepage, click on “Find One” on the drop-down menu under “Screening Sites” to look for a free screening site near you. Many sites are added in August in anticipation of National Screening Month. There is also a link to help people find screening sites year-round, though they may not be free.

The Legs for Life Web site also features “self-tests,” or questionnaires to help you evaluate your risk for PAD and other vascular conditions. Some pages on the Web site are also available in Spanish.

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