Diabetes and Summer Feet

Here comes summer! Are you looking forward to it? Or do you dread the effect of summer conditions on your diabetic feet?
Although the warmer weather pushes back memories of winter cold, for your feet, summer carries the same threats and often brings different problems. As you start to expose your feet more, it is time to stop and ask if you are ready and how are you going to look after your feet this summer. By attending to some simple details, we can all enjoy a trouble free summer of good foot health.
Firstly, let’s shake off winter and decide to set up a good foot hygiene routine by following the basics of daily washing and always taking time to carefully dry our feet, especially between the toes. Fresh air is good for feet but try to avoid barefoot, especially if you have changes to your nerves or circulation.
What are you going to wear on your feet this summer? Are those sandals going to rub the skin off the tops of your toes? Or cause blisters at the back of your heels? Are your ‘slip slops‘ going to hurt between the big toe and the next one? What you normally wear in summer is probably dictated by your work and will include bare feet in sandals, stockings with court shoes, socks and formal shoes, takkies, plus whatever you use for exercise.
In general, protection is the name of the game. Correct fit, soft natural materials and thicker soles are best. Obviously, costs are important to us all and unless you are able to spend a lot of money on expensive footwear, expect to find synthetic material against your foot as a sole lining. This might make your feet sweat or burn, but follow the hygiene routine and you should avoid problems.
As temperatures rise, we generally perspire more as part of the body’s temperature control mechanism. However, some people find that their feet are drier in the summer, whilst others have problems with sweaty feet or athletes’ foot.
Dry, cracked skin affects many people with diabetes all year round and it is often worse during the summer months. This is because they have autonomic neuropathy, one of the changes to their nervous system, which results in under production of sweat and causes dryness.
As a result, the skin is less elastic and unable to stretch easily, so it cracks under the stresses and strains of walking and standing. Another important factor contributing to these stresses is being overweight. In addition, dry skin is also a natural part of becoming older.
To reduce these problems follow this simple routine:
  • Visit a podiatrist for assessment and initial treatment.
  • Look after your feet yourself, with a sandpaper file or hard skin stone.
  • Moisturise every day [twice if necessary], with a product that works for you.
  • DO IT!  So many people know that they have a problem, but fail to find the time to attend to it regularly
There is a confusing array of products on the market, so try to find the best for you. Remember, moisturise not grease. Moisturising will nourish and rehydrate your skin making it flexible again. Very thick, fissured skin needs reducing by your podiatrist, after which you can apply the moisturiser most suited to your skin.
If you are one of those people who suffer from deep skin cracks with thick, callused edges try a trick that I learned from a well-known dermatologist – join the edges of the crack with Super Glue – it works!
Don’t forget to attend to your nails. There are many treatment options: yourself, your podiatrist, or your beauty therapist. Nowadays, many podiatrists will recommend you to a beauty therapist for ongoing routine care. However, if you have known diabetic foot complications then see your podiatrist, who will also check your feet for any deterioration. Your podiatrist will also check for fungal infection of your nails to – a common condition in people with diabetes.
Moisture trapped between the toes is often a sign of fungal infection – Tinea Pedis or Athletes Foot. Typically this appears as moist, itchy cracks between the two smallest toes, or a blister rash in the arch, where the toes join the sole, or even around the heels. These blisters dry; turn brown and crusty, and leave an itchy rash with peeling skin. Scratching spreads the infection.
Sometimes Athletes Foot looks like a dry moccasin around the sole of the entire foot. Fungal infections are spread in communal areas and are associated with moisture [i.e. not drying the feet properly] and closed darkness [inside a shoe or Takkie]. Wear your slip slops in any change-room or shower. Always consult your doctor or podiatrist, who will know what treatment to recommend.
During summer, moist, sweaty feet affect most of us, but sometimes, they can smell – this is quite natural. The odour of ‘smelly feet’ comes from dead bacteria on the skin. The whiteness comes from having our feet closed inside shoes and socks for extended periods of time. The synthetic materials in our footwear also aggravate this, especially if you are a man. 
To control this, the most important first step is careful, thorough, washing and drying to improve skin tone. Spirit-based sprays such as Spiritus Pedibus do help; also try non-scented anti-perspirants, to reduce sweating. There are also deodorant powders for your shoes.
Finally, protect against sunburn. The skin on the top of our feet is very sensitive and needs a good sunscreen or protection factor.
This type of regular footcare regime should allow diabetes sufferers to enjoy the summer months to the maximum. Just remember to hot foot it straight down to your podiatrist if your hot feet give you any cause for concern.