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Hygiene for Diabetic Patients

Diabetes is a complex disease that affects the whole body. Because prolonged exposure to elevated blood sugar levels ultimately leads to blood vessel damage, it's important to think of this illness as a whole, not just in part. Secondary symptoms linked directly to diabetes affect the body inside and out, from eyes and mouth to heart and kidneys.

As a foot care nurse, you'll see the damage caused by diabetes firsthand; patients with unmanaged high blood sugar and improper blood flow to the extremities will have dryer and thinner skin, are more prone to developing skin cracks and infections, suffer from skin sores, and are at much greater risk for permanent damage, including amputations.

Diabetic Foot Symptoms

The symptoms of diabetic foot conditions can start very simply. As fewer nutrients reach the cells, the skin begins to dry out. Diabetic patients can suffer from dry skin on every part of the body, not only their feet. Dry skin is more prone to tears and cracks, allowing bacteria to enter and cause infections.
Unfortunately, we frequently see many diabetic foot care patients make uninformed decisions with good intentions, such as soaking feet extensively or applying the wrong products. These practices can actually further damage the skin and lead to serious consequences.

Patient education is an all-important aspect of supplying adequate foot care treatments. As diabetes progresses, so do diabetic foot symptoms. Diabetic patients suffer from foot problems much more frequently than healthy patients, and it doesn't stop with dry skin. Since diabetes causes nerve damage, patients are in danger of developing life-threatening infections from small cuts, blisters, or pressure sores. As a foot care nurse, it's important to be able to identify the physical signs of high-risk feet, such as dry or thinning skin, swelling, ulcerations, and nail dystrophy, quickly and early on.

Diabetic Foot Hygiene

The importance of diabetic foot care and hygiene for diabetic patients is crucial. Proper foot washing and moisturizing is particularly important to preserve the overall health of diabetic patients. Don't use hot water on feet, avoid soaking, use gentle motions, never use exfoliants, and always dry feet completely.

To ensure diabetic skin is protected from the outside, patients should not soak in baths, should only use mild soaps and moisturizers, and should avoid over-the-counter treatments that contain harsh chemicals or fragrances. These ingredients can further damage already fragile skin. Instead, look for products that are labeled as hypoallergenic and fragrance-free.

We recommend specialty cleansers such as Medline Remedy because they use phospholipids, not soap, to cleanse the skin without stripping it of its natural oils. Phospholipids form a protective barrier to prevent moisture loss and don't have to be rinsed with water. Other cleaners, such as Diabetic Defense, contain additional ingredients to prevent fungal or bacterial infections from forming in the event skin cracks already exist.

Applying a moisturizer immediately after bathing or following a medical wash while the skin is still damp can help to lock in moisture and prevent further drying. Be sure to apply the moisturizer all over the foot, including between the toes, and massage it in thoroughly. It's also important to choose a product that is appropriate for the level of dryness. A cream or ointment will provide more coverage and protection than a lotion, which is better suited for less severe cases.

Feet sweat just like any other part of the body, so they need to be treated with a foot powder or spray to help control moisture and keep skin dry. An advanced skin repair lotion designed to prevent moisture loss gives diabetic skin the advantage it needs. We don't recommend using an occlusive, such as Vaseline, as this could increase the likelihood of fungal infections developing.

Lastly, it's essential to protect feet from the sun. Diabetic patients are at a higher risk for developing skin cancer, so it's important to always wear shoes and socks outdoors and to apply sunscreen to exposed areas.

When it comes to caring for diabetic patients, foot care is always a top priority. By taking the necessary precautions and using the proper products, you can help to keep your patients' feet healthy and free from complications.