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The dos and don’ts of diabetic foot care

asian woman taking care of elderly man

If you have diabetes, you can keep your feet healthy by following a few simple steps.

Dr. Mary Hanley, medical director of the Wound, Hyperbaric Medicine and Limb Preservation Program at Roper St. Francis Healthcare, recommends starting with this list of dos and don’ts to help prevent and treat wounds on your feet.

DOs: How to prevent and treat foot wounds

Typical wounds heal within six weeks, but that’s often not the case for people with diabetes.

“Any wound on a diabetic foot is a life-and limb-threatening wound,” Dr. Hanley says.

And while that may sound scary, taking the following precautions can help keep your feet healthy and give you peace of mind.

  • Always keep your wound moist and covered. There is a common misconception that you should let a wound “breathe” – but it’s important to keep it covered with a bandage to prevent infection.
  • Examine your feet each day. Dr. Hanley suggests, “Put a mirror on the ground and hold your feet above it. It gives you a better look at the bottoms of your feet for any cuts, cracks or ulcers.”
  • Maintain your overall health. Keeping your blood sugar under control, watching your diet and exercising regularly are three important ways to decrease the chance of having a foot wound.
  • See your physician regularly. Consistent visits to your doctor can help ensure any wounds or injuries are treated as quickly as possible.
  • Take every wound seriously. No matter how small the wound on your foot is, seek advice from your doctor on how to best care for it.

DON’Ts: Here’s what to avoid to keep your feet healthy

As important as it is to follow the dos, it’s just as vital to know what not to do. It’s essential to avoid ignoring any cut or wound. Dr. Hanley offers these additional suggestions:

  • Avoid taking too long to see your doctor. As soon as you notice any sort of injury on your feet, see your doctor as soon as possible. Making an appointment right away can make all the difference when it comes to the impact a wound has on your body.
  • Don’t soak your feet. This is especially important for those who experience neuropathy, which is a loss of protective sensation.
  • Don’t wear ill-fitting shoes. Wearing shoes that are too tight or pinch can cause harmful injuries.
  • Never cut your own toenails. If you accidentally cut into your skin, this can lead to a more serious wound or infection down the road.
  • Skip using triple antibiotic ointments. These sorts of at-home treatments can lead to skin irritation and allergic reactions.

The list of don’ts may seem daunting at first. But with time, medical resources and experience, you can soon feel confident about caring for yourself.

“Preventing foot wounds and diabetic ulcers is doable,” says Dr. Hanley. “The most important ‘do’ to remember is that you can’t heal a wound without first doing what’s needed to keep your whole body healthy.”

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