Foot, Eye, Mouth and Skin Care for Diabetics

If you have diabetes, take special care of your feet, eyes, mouth and skin.

Foot Care

Nerve damage, circulation problems and infections can cause serious foot problems for diabetics. Nerve damage can deform or misshape your feet, causing pressure points that can turn into blisters, sores or ulcers. Poor circulation can make these injuries slow to heal. Sometimes it can result in a toe, foot or leg being removed.
Here are some tips on how to take good care of your feet:

  • Look for cuts, cracks, sores, red spots, swelling, infected toenails, splinters, blisters and calluses on your feet each day. Put a mirror on the floor to help you inspect the bottoms of your feet. Call your doctor if wounds do not heal after one day.
  • If you have corns and calluses, ask your doctor or podiatrist about the best way to care for them. Do not cut or file them. Do not remove loose skin or apply foot medicines unless advised by your doctor.
  • Wash your feet in warm — not hot — water and dry them well. Test your bath water with your elbow before getting in to be sure it will not burn your feet.
  • Cut your toenails once a week or when needed. Cut toenails when they are soft from washing. Cut them to the shape of the toe and not too short. File the edges with an emery board.
  • Rub lotion on the tops and bottoms of feet — but not between the toes — to prevent cracking and drying.
  • Wear shoes that fit well. Break in new shoes slowly, by wearing them 1 to 2 hours each day for the first 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Wear stockings or socks to avoid blisters and sores.
  • Wear clean, lightly padded socks that fit well; seamless socks that are made of cotton and are free of dye are best.
  • Always wear shoes or slippers, because when you are barefoot it is easy to step on something and hurt your feet.
  • Protect your feet from extreme heat and cold. Protect your feet from too much sun.
  • When sitting, keep blood flowing to your lower limbs by propping your feet up and moving your toes and ankles for a few minutes at a time. Avoid sitting with your legs crossed. This prevents blood from flowing to your legs and feet.
  • On long car trips, stop and get out of the car every couple of hours and walk around.
  • Avoid smoking, which reduces blood flow to the feet.

Eye Care 

If you lose all or part of your vision, call your doctor right away. You should have an eye exam at least once a year by an eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist). You need a dilated eye exam so that the doctor can look at the back of your eye (retina). Changes in your vision caused by diabetes can be treated if detected early.

Mouth Care

High blood sugar levels can cause problems with your teeth and gums. And like all infections, dental infections can make your blood sugar go up even higher. Sore, swollen, red gums that bleed when you brush your teeth are a sign of a dental problem called gingivitis. Another problem, called periodontitis, happens when your gums shrink or pull away from your teeth. People with diabetes are also prone to other mouth problems, like fungal infections, poor post-surgery healing, and dry mouth.

You can help maintain your oral health by keeping your blood sugar as close to normal as possible. Tell your dentist you have diabetes. It is also important to brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush at least twice a day. Floss once a day. If you wear dentures, keep them clean, and remember you still need to see a dentist. Get a dental cleaning and exam twice a year, and be sure to call your dentist with any problems.Remember, smoking makes it more likely for you to get a bad case of gum disease, especially if you have diabetes and are age 45 or older.

Skin Care

If you have diabetes, it is vitally important to guard against infection. Your skin is your first line of defense. Be sure to bathe daily and wash your hands before and after eating or going to the bathroom. Tend to cuts, scrapes and sores promptly. Tell your doctor if you have any wounds or bruises that will not heal.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Basics of Diabetes, Vidant Health Inpatient Diabetes Management Team, 2012
Joint Commission