Patients’ Guide to Diabetic Neuropathy

Foot Care When You Have Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy

How to Avoid Diabetes Foot Complications

For people with diabetic peripheral neuropathy—nerve damage caused by diabetes—taking good care of their feet is very important. The nerves most often affected by peripheral neuropathy are the ones leading to the feet, and this type of nerve damage can cause people to lose feeling in their feet.

 
This lack of sensation can cause extreme problems. For example, someone with diabetic peripheral neuropathy might develop a blister on the bottom of their foot. People without nerve damage would be able to feel that and take care of it properly.
 
However, if someone has lost sensation in the feet, they wouldn’t be able to feel the blister. It may eventually rub off and then become infected. Left untreated, that infection may spread to the bones, and then it may become necessary to amputate the foot in order to keep the infection from spreading.
 
It’s possible to avoid that scenario entirely—just by taking good care of your feet. For starters, make sure your doctor gives you a thorough foot examination at every appointment. In between appointments, you should check your own feet every day.
 
Here’s what you can do to take good care of your feet:
  • Clean your feet every day.
  • As you’re drying the feet (with a soft towel), check for redness, swelling, blisters, etc. Be sure to look between your toes. If you notice anything, report it to your doctor. If you have trouble bending over to see your feet, try using a mirror.
  • Moisturize your feet with a good lotion. Be careful to not get any of the lotion in between your toes because it could actually cause an infection.
  • Keep your toenails at a good length; this should help you avoid ingrown toenails.
  • Wear shoes that fit well. It’s especially important that your toes are able to move and wiggle around, so look for shoes with a good-sized toe box.
  • To avoid injuring your feet, always wear shoes or slippers. You don’t want to step on something—a small pebble, for instance—and injure your foot. You may not feel or notice that small injury, and it could grow into a bigger problem.
  • Before you put on your shoes, make sure there isn’t anything in your shoe that could irritate your foot—a small pebble, for instance.
 
In taking good care of your feet, you’re being proactive in preventing severe complications from diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

 

View Sources
  • American Diabetes Association.  Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes—2009. Diabetes Care. 2009;32:S13-61.
  • National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse website.  Diabetic Neuropathies:  The Nerve Damage of Diabetes.  Available at:  http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/neuropathies/.  Accessed March 27, 2009.