- The heat is on. People with diabetes often have problems with dry, itchy skin. So the diabetic foot can get dry as it is, but once the heat goes on indoors, your skin is even more susceptible to drying out and cracking. Keeping feet moisturized in the wintertime becomes even more essential, since cracked skin invites bacteria that cause infection and ulcers. Direct sources of heat are also a real danger for diabetics with neuropathy, or loss of feeling. Things like space heaters, fireplaces, heating pads, electric blankets and hot baths can cause a second- or third-degree burn before the patient even realizes it’s happening. Use extra caution when around these types of direct heat.
- It’s cold out there. Studies suggest that cold temperatures can make it more difficult to manage blood glucose levels. The temperature may be falling, but your A1C levels could be rising. This means that diabetics out in the cold weather may be at a higher risk for problems with breathing and circulation compared to non-diabetics. It’s important to dress for the weather and try to keep your whole body warm so that your feet – the furthest body part from the heart and therefore the last to receive warm blood – will also stay warm.
- It’s also wet out there. Walking in snow and slush without the proper shoes can freeze your feet faster than you can wish for a January thaw. For diabetics, shoe choice becomes even more important than it is for others. Protect your vulnerable feet with boots that have a warm lining. Make sure they offer excellent support (ask an expert shoe salesperson for help with this). Toss any worn-out boots in favor of those with lug soles and good traction. Don’t forget the importance of good, moisture-wicking socks as well. If socks get wet, take them off as soon as possible, dry your feet thoroughly, and put on a dry pair.
All diabetics should see a podiatrist at least once a year for proper care of their vulnerable feet. Discuss your personal risks in cold weather and all year-round with Fairfax County’s board-certified podiatrist, Dr. Kenneth R. Wilhelm of Clifton Foot & Ankle Center. For expert diagnosis and treatment of your diabetic foot issues, call us at (703) 996-3000 or contact us online.