Monday, January 14, 2013
Cold weather can cause problems with feet
For people with diabetes, the winter months are a time when more attention than usual should be given to the feet.
Diabetics are at risk for having reduced blood flow to the lower extremities, and the cold weather compounds this problem. The dry weather from being inside also makes the skin more susceptible to drying and cracking. Also, diabetics have decreased sensation to the lower extremities which makes for a decreased awareness of issues which may be of concern with their feet.
Fortunately, there are steps that diabetics can take during the winter to minimize foot problems.
Many people use heating pads and warming blankets. Because of the decreased sensation or neuropathy of diabetes, these devices can cause significant foot injuries and should be avoided. If they are used, the temperature of the devices should be checked with the elbow as the sensation is not decreased as it is in the fingers and toes.
Here are some cold weather tips that will help diabetics and just about anyone:
• Check winter shoes for proper fit to avoid tightness and resulting injuries.
• Wear clean, dry socks made of a natural fiber such as cotton to reduce irritation.
• Use moisturizing lotion on feet to increase comfort and help exfoliate rough skin and avoid skin cracking, which may result in ulceration.
• Pat your feet dry, don’t rub after bathing or showering.
• As with any time of year, diabetics need to exercise great caution when trimming nails to avoid trimming them too short. If you must clip, work on toes that have been soaked in warm water for a few minutes. Hard dry nails can split and lead to problems.
• Routine exercise can be difficult during the winter months, but it is important for diabetics because it will increase circulation. Lack of exercise and activity can cause havoc with blood glucose levels, and extra weight is not good on your feet. It is also important for diabetics to avoid going barefoot in the house and to obtain a good fitting pair of slippers.
• Diabetics should check their feet daily, especially after being outside and exposed to the cold, paying particular attention to any changes in color and shape, cuts, swelling and infected toenails. In the event that a sore develops that doesn't heal in a couple of days, or you have tingling in your feet that doesn't stop or have no feeling in your feet, call your doctor for an appointment. These things can be problems with diabetics and ignoring them can lead to greater problems.
Dr. Mark Tramontozzi is a member of the Medical Director of the Backus Health System Wound Care Center. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at www.backushospital.org/backus-blogs or e-mail Dr. Tramontozzi or any of the Healthy Living columnists at firstname.lastname@example.org.