If you have diabetes, you've probably already heard your doctor tell you about the importance of foot care. You may already be seeing a podiatrist, or foot care specialist, to help you avoid some of the problems that can occur when you have diabetes. Your feet are at special risk because:
- Circulation is impacted because high blood sugar reduces blood flow. This can cause a loss of feeling in your feet, so you're more likely to hurt them without realizing it.
- Nerve damage means you can't feel pain, even from problems like burns or broken bones, and don't seek medical attention immediately.
- You are less likely to heal properly from wounds to the feet.
- Infections to the skin or bone can lead to amputations.
Because of these issues, even something as simple as cutting your toenails can cause problems. Here are three tips for caring for your toenails properly when you are diabetic:
1. Trim nails carefully.
Even if you've never had ingrown toenails before, developing them may put you at increased risk of infection. You'll need to take special precautions when you cut your nails, just as you would if you were susceptible to ingrown nails.
- Cut straight across -- don't follow the shape of your nail.
- Cut nails when dry, not wet, for a smoother cut.
- Use the right nail clipper; get a larger one for toenails.
- Don't cut too short.
If you cannot easily see or reach your toenails, if you have trouble manipulating a toenail cutter or if the sensation in your feet is very poor, you should see a medical professional for toenail cutting. Most podiatrists' offices offer this service, either from the doctor or a trained nurse.
2. Choose the right footwear.
Diabetics already have a long list of what is appropriate and what isn't in caring for their feet. Add one more thing to the list -- protecting your toenails. You don't want to wear sandals or flip-flops as you can easily damage your feet without knowing it, but you also don't want to wear closed-toe shoes that are too tight. They'll rub up against your toenails and potentially cause problems with your toes, which you may not be able to feel.
When toes are too cramped on a regular basis, they can develop issues of their own -- for example, corns and calluses, hammertoes or even fractures. These would be bad enough if you didn't have diabetes, but they can lead to ulcers in diabetic feet. So make sure your shoes are comfortable and don't get close to your toenails or the tips of your toes.
3. Treat fungal infections immediately.
Diabetics are much more likely to get fungal infections in general, and especially those that affect the nails. The most common nail fungal infection, onychomycosis, leads to ugly, thick toenails. But while cosmetic issues may be important to you, an even bigger problem is the propensity of the infection to move into the skin around the nails.
If you have any small cuts or abrasions near your nails, this infection can take root. So look for the signs of thickening nails and redness around the nail bed, and immediately seek medical attention. Your doctor can prescribe an anti-fungal oral and/or topical medication to eradicate the fungus before it causes problems.
Whenever anything looks wrong with your feet or nails, it's time to visit your podiatrist, such as Allied Ankle & Foot Care Centers PC. As a diabetic, you need to examine your feet carefully each day and follow any and all guidelines your doctor gives you. With diligence and care, you can avoid losing your feet to diabetes.