Poor circulation and nerve damage leave people with diabetes at increased risk for potentially serious foot problems, especially during the cold weather, a foot and ankle specialist warns.
"When it comes to your feet, rain, snow and slushy weather have something in common: they cause dampness. Moisture that collects between your socks and your feet and toes can encourage bacteria, which can lead to an infection," said Dr Michael Ambroziak, a Michigan-based foot and ankle surgeon.
"Patients with diabetes should change out of wet or damp socks, and towel dry their feet as soon as possible, remembering to pay close attention to the area between their toes," he advised in a news release from the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons.
People with diabetes also need to moisturise their feet daily to prevent their skin from itching or cracking. But avoid areas between the toes because applying moisturiser there could lead to a fungal infection, he added.
Diabetes can cause nerve damage (neuropathy) in the feet, which means it's important to keep them away from sources of direct and high heat, he said.
"With the numbness caused by neuropathy, diabetic patients may not feel when their feet are burning. As a result, they can experience second- or third-degree burns, which can cause serious foot problems," Ambroziak explained.
Proper footwear important
Avoid the use of warming aids on the feet, such as electric blankets, heated shoe inserts and heating pads. Also, test bath water with hands or a thermometer to make sure it's not too hot before putting your feet into the water, he said.
Moisture-wicking socks can help keep feet dry and warm during cold weather. It's also important to have proper footwear, Ambroziak said.
"In any climate, patients with diabetes should wear well-fitted shoes with supportive soles and a wide toe box to reduce cramping. During the colder seasons, extra thought should be given to sock texture and how the weather will affect walking conditions," he said.
And, he stressed, people with diabetes should also get regular foot exams by a health care provider.