Footcare for the Elderly, Diabetic and those with Poor Circulation
Persons suffering from diabetes must be especially careful with their feet, the same applies to the aged due to the poor circulation that usually accompanies age. Infection of the feet in diabetic conditions can be most serious.
Intelligent care of your feet may add years to your life. Take heed of your Chiropodist’s advice and do not attempt home treatments. Consult your Chiropodist for the care of corns, callouses, ingrown nails and other manifestations.
The Importance of Footcare
Feet are one of the most vulnerable parts of the body, yet most people tend to neglect them. For the majority, this is not too serious but for the diabetic it can have dire consequences.
People who have had diabetes for a long time often have damage to the nerve and blood supply of their feet, poor circulation also often accompanies age. The symptoms of nerve damage include numbness, loss of feeling, tingling, burning sensations or pain. Those of impaired blood supply include pain at rest, especially at night; pain in the calf whilst walking, and feet that feel cold to the touch.
Every year thousands of people have toes, feet and even legs, amputated because of diabetes related foot problems. Most of these could have been prevented by proper foot care. When you have diabetes it makes sense to take a lot extra care of your feet.
Wash your feet daily with mild soap and tepid water but do not soak them. Never use epsom salts or washing soda in a footbath. Dry them carefully, especially between the toes, which is where germs such as Athlete’s Foot can easily breed. Use a soft towel and a gentle “blotting” action. If your skin is dry, sparingly apply a good quality non-medicated moisturising cream. If you use talcum powder, choose a non-medicated one such as baby powder. Apply it in the morning and wash off at night as it can encourage growth of germs if left for too long. If the skin between the toes becomes moist, apply surgical spirit at night.
Get into the habit of examining your feet daily for any cuts, cracks abrasions, corns or hard skin, any of which can lead to infection. If any of these are present, bathe with a mild antiseptic, apply a sterile dressing and see your chiropodist, doctor or hospital diabetic department without delay.
Corns and Callouses
These are thickening of the skin, caused by pressure and rubbing from footwear and are a source of infection which may go undetected because of the hard skin covering, especially in those cases where nerve damage is present, as the pain may not be felt. It is essential that they are properly treated as soon as possible, otherwise serious damage can occur.
Toenails should be cut to the shape of the end of the toes and no shorter. Never cut down the sides. Afterwards, use a file on any sharp corners or rough edges. You may find that they are easier to cut after a bath. If you find them difficult, consult your Chiropodist.
Shoes that fit well can help prevent many foot problems. Ill-fitting shoes cause corns, callouses, ulcers and nail problems.
Choose footwear with:-
• Soft leather uppers without seams, that will mould to your feet and let them ‘breathe’.
• Wide toe caps with depth, that will allow room for your toes to wiggle.
• Soft insoles and linings with no wrinkles or seams.
Every time you put your shoes on, check that there are no pieces of grit or other objects in them.
Avoid stockings, tights or socks that are too tight as they may restrict the circulation, but also avoid hosiery that is too loose as this can wrinkle and irritate the skin. Do not wear elastic garters as they may seriously restrict the circulation.
Good foot care makes sense, your doctor and chiropodist are there to help you.
© The Institute of Chiropodists and Podiatrists 1996
Tips on Footcare
• Take regular exercise to improve circulation.
• Do not sit with your legs crossed, nor walk about barefoot, even in the house.
• If your eyesight is poor, ask a member of your family or a friend to examine your feet on a regular (preferably daily) basis, but do not let them cut corns and callouses for you.
• Never use animal wool around your toes, it shrinks and may cut off the circulation.
• Do not use hot poultices.
• If you sit close to a fire, protect your legs with a blanket to prevent damage to the skin.
• Do not use hot water bottles, the heat can be dangerous. Use an electric blanket, but remember to switch it off before getting into bed.
• Do not use commercial corn pastes, paints or plasters, they can and do, cause serious damage.
• Do not smoke. Smoking impairs the circulation, particularly in persons with diabetes. It can seriously worsen foot and leg problems.