Many of us have attended diabetes education programs that included a whole raft of topics that impact our daily lives. Food, insulin, other medications, diabetes technology, and exercise are just the tip of the iceberg for all the things we need to know to live well with diabetes.
One of the items, foot care, at first seemed like one more thing tacked onto an already long list. I was taught early on that preventing foot injuries was key to heading off progression to an amputation.
To be truthful, while I tried to at least glance at my feet from time to time, I didn’t spend as much time, however, with any sort of daily ritual to care for my feet. I have always seen a podiatrist on a regular basis but that was at most a four or five times per year.
A few months back, as I was sitting down to put on my socks and shoes, I noticed that I had several small dry flaps of skin hinging from the side of my left heel. The heel and ball of my foot both had a layer of dry skin on them. Without thinking too much about it, I tugged at one of these dry skin flaps, hoping to remove it. Yikes! That was painful.
I put some neosporin lotion on the injury and placed a band-aid over it. Then I took down my copy of Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution to see what he had to say about foot care.
The nerves that stimulate perspiration in the feet are also affected. This results in the classic dry, often cracked skin that we see on diabetic feet. Dry skin is more easily damaged and slower to heal than normal, moist skin, and cracks permit entry of infectious bacteria.
I was surprised to read this close description of my situation. But I shouldn’t be as Dr. Bernstein’s book is comprehensive. And I should have reviewed this advice before I decided to put a band-aid over the skin injury created by tearing off that dry flake of skin. When I removed that band-aid after 24 hours, it started to pull up a layer of skin. Bernstein could have saved me that grief.
Do not put adhesive tape or other adhesive products like corn plasters in contact with your feet. Fragile skin might be peeled off when the tape is removed.
Well, I still had things to learn about taking care of my diabetes! I reviewed the rest of Appendix D, Foot Care for Diabetics, and saw Dr. B’s recommendation to lubricate the feet to alleviate or prevent dry skin and cracking.
If the skin of your feet is dry, lubricate the entire foot.Suitable lubricants include olive oil, any vegetable oil, vitamin E oil, emu oil, mink oil, and emulsified lanolin. […] Do not use petroleum jelly (Vaseline), mineral oil or baby oil, as they are not absorbed by the skin.
A month ago, I started to lubricate my feet twice per day, upon arising in the morning and before sleeping. I started out using an herbal salve found on Amazon, then switching to coconut oil, and finally another product I found on Amazon called CeraVe, a foot cream.
Progress has been slow but I’m starting to noticed some significant improvement. That layer of dry skin is more than 90% resolved and I now see a moist healthy skin layer reminiscent of a much younger me. I’ve also noticed an increase in sensation on the bottom of my feet. This makes sense as that layer of dry skin actually insulated my sensing nerves.
I’m embarrassed to admit that it’s taken me over 30 years to really appreciate the benefit of moisturizing my feet every day. Healthy skin on my feet not only resists infection but also enables me to walk every day for exercise. Exercise is fundamental to my diabetes management. I actually enjoy this daily ritual and I think this habit will stick.