Woman stretching, holding feet

More than 30 million people are living with diabetes in the United States, and one in four of them do not know they have it, according to the CDC.

Erick Jose Guerra, MD, the medical director of Saint Luke’s Wound Care at Saint Luke’s East Hospital, says one of the most important things people with diabetes can do is pay close attention to the health of their feet.

“I tell my patients, you cannot trust what you feel in your feet— you have to trust what you see in your feet,” Guerra said.

That is because many people with diabetes develop neuropathy, or a loss of sensation in their feet due to damaged blood vessels and nerves. When that happens, people often do not feel pain or pressure on their feet. They also have less circulation and resistance in their feet compared to a person without diabetes. These two things often lead to ulcers where there is friction.

Staying off your feet is not an option for most people, as the average American walks 2 miles or more each day. However, you can follow these five simple steps to make sure your feet stay healthy.

One: Check your feet daily.

“When you put on your shoes or take them off, you have to take a look at your feet,” Guerra said. “Touch them, make sure that there’s no cuts, bumps, or calluses. And if you cannot see your feet, have someone look especially at the bottom of your feet where you’re able to have more problems.”

Two: Keep your feet moisturized. Neuropathy can cause the skin to be extra dry, which can lead to cracks and sores.

Three: Use good, comfortable shoes and change them out frequently. Custom-made diabetic shoes may be recommended by your doctor.

“It’s not how comfortable the shoes feel,” Guerra said. “It’s how your feet look after walking. If there’s no redness, blisters, or other signs of friction, then that means the shoes are comfortable.”

Four: Figure out which type of exercise and how much of it is best for you.

“People with diabetes need to know how much is too much,” Dr. Guerra said. “For some people 20 minutes of walking could be too much, while some could do an hour. So, it’s very important to check your feet for any of the warning signs after you exercise.”

Five: Eat a healthy diet and know which types of food affect your diabetes.

“Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables is important because you get all of the beneficial nutrients,” Dr. Guerra said. “And any patients with diabetes need to be able to control their blood sugars. If their blood sugar is high, it’s going to be more difficult to heal the wound.”

Learn more about diabetic foot health at Saint Luke’s Wound Care Specialists and schedule an appointment at the location nearest you.

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Erick Jose Guerra, MD

Family Medicine, Hospitalist