How to Give Yourself a Diabetic Foot Exam
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How to Check Your Feet
Check your feet weekly if you've never had complications. Perform exams daily if you have lost sensation and/or a history of foot wounds.
Limited flexibility and belly flab can make foot exams difficult to do on your own. But you're not off the hook! Allow a companion or caretaker to help. Here are the steps to give a good foot exam.
Get into Position to Check Your Feet
After cleaning your feet, sit on a bed, chair, or toilet in a well-lit room. Both legs should hang comfortably in front of you.
Lift your one foot over your opposite leg so you can easily see the foot. The supporting leg should be relaxed in front of your body.
Dry Your Foot
Pat your foot dry with a bath towel or soft cloth. Take special care to gently dry between your toes.
Examine the Bottom of Your Foot
Use your hands to rotate your ankle slightly so the sole of your foot is visible and angled upward. Don't overextend your ankle. If you are unable to see the bottom of your foot, use a handheld mirror to view its reflection.
Balls of feet: Scan the surface for bumps and irregular textures. Because this area endures high pressure when you walk, calluses or corns may develop. Proper-fitting footwear can reduce your risk.
Soles of feet: Feel for bumps and lumps, which can be signs of muscle or bone injuries. Contact your doctor if symptoms persist or if you notice open wounds called ulcers.
Heels: Feel for dry, rough, or cracked skin. Even small fissures can become infected. For prevention, moisturize daily with odorless, colorless lotion. Don't moisturize between toes; bacteria love warm, moist places.
Tools You Might Need
Foot Exam Mirror
* Everyday Foot Examination Mirror: This shatterproof magnifying mirror ($10) folds flat and easily fits in a purse or bathroom drawer. Its retractable handle expands from 6 to 18 inches, so you don't have to strain while viewing your feet. MEDport; 800/299-5704; medportinc.com
Scale and Foot Mirror in One
* Foot Care Scale by Insight: After stepping off the Insight Foot Care Scale ($99), a light reminds you to examine the soles of your feet with built-in angled mirrors (this is easiest to do while seated). No stretching or straining required. Insight; 866/321-2405; focusonyourfeet.com
Feel Your Foot
Feel your foot with your hands, checking the bottom and top for any bumps or temperature changes from one part of the foot to another. Repeat all steps with your other foot.
A Tool You Might Need
* TempTouch infrared foot thermometer: PWDs with a history of wounds can measure temperatures on the foot's surface with this handheld device ($99). High or low readings may indicate poor circulation or infection-issues you can't always see. Diabetica; 800/246-3395; temptouch.com
Look Carefully at Your Feet
Do a visual inspection. Search for any abnormalities on the top of your feet, such as scabs, sores, bruises, or corns. Check your toes and toenails for proper nail color and length.
Tops of feet: Search for signs of decreased blood flow, such as abnormal hairlessness, temperature variation, and thin or shiny skin. Blood glucose control and physical activity can help boost blood flow.
Examine Your Toes
Spread toes apart with your fingers; look between your toes. Check each toenail as well as the fleshy area surrounding it.
Toes: To test for blood flow, gently squeeze the balls of your toes. Normal color should return within five seconds. Discolored toes indicate possible circulatory problems.
Toenails: Examine unpolished nails for thickness, discoloration, or flaking, which can be signs of fungal infections. A doctor may advise an over-the-counter or prescription treatment.
Around toenails: Look for ingrown toenails, characterized by reddened, puffy skin along the nail. Ingrown nails can require surgery if ignored for too long.
Track Your Foot Self-Exams Over Time
On paper, take note of any sores, corns, unusual temperatures, etc. Describe how irregularities look, feel, and smell. Compare your notes from exam to exam. If any ailment has worsened, or if you notice any new issues, contact your doctor.
Keep Your Feet Safe Outdoors
Warm weather may be welcome, but sun, sandals, and increased activity can stress your feet. When preparing to go outside, consider the following tips:
* Always wear shoes outdoors. Hot asphalt and sand can scorch bare feet without warning. And you never know what sharp objects lurk in your lawn or on your driveway.
* Avoid flip-flops and strappy sandals. Friction can cause blisters, and the open designs leave your feet exposed to all sorts of hazards.
* Apply sunscreen to your feet (as well as everywhere else). Burns that peel or bubble can become infected.
* Wear water shoes while in and near water. Pool linings and sandy beaches can cause cuts that are easy to overlook.
* Examine your feet after outdoor activity. Splinters, bug bites, and poison ivy result in skin breaks that can become infected. Clean and treat any wounds as soon as possible.
Use Toenail Clippers for Thick Nails
Search drugstores for clippers (from $5) that are easy to control with one hand, like these pliers-style clippers. They're less likely to nip skin or cause ingrown nails. If you have poor vision, loss of feeling in your feet, or a history of ulcers, seek professional nail care.