The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Staying Safe During The Cold Months: Winter Foot Care for Diabetics

Posted by on Monday, December 8th, 2014

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One would think summer is the most harrowing time for the diabetic foot. People are more active and apt to be walking barefoot in the warm, dewy grass, or sandy beaches where broken glass or shells could be lurking. However, we find that the winter months spell the most trouble for patients with diabetes. New York City podiatrists at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine discuss why the chilly temperatures bring added pain and what you can do for better winter foot care.

diabetic feet
Diabetics have a host of foot issues in the winter months. Learn how to address them. Image Source: Wikimedia.org

Beware Foot Fungus!

Unlike summertime when most folks are donning sandals, wet winter socks and books can spell foot fungus for people who are prone to it. To prevent athlete’s foot and toenail fungus, change out of wet socks and shoes immediately, and alternate footwear at least every other day to allow for adequate drying. If your boots or shoes became wet, place them near a vent, fireplace, or on a boot drier. Sprinkle antifungal foot powder into your shoes for good measure. Use a tea tree oil soap to naturally discourage fungal growth. Be careful about moisturizing your feet, unless you are using an antifungal moisturizer.

Circulation Slows Down.

The winter chill causes blood vessels to constrict, thus restricting blood flow to the extremities. Most diabetics already suffer from impaired circulation related to elevated blood sugar levels that have damaged blood vessels and contributed to plaque formation. These months, fingers and toes can burn, “go dead,” feel completely numb, and even turn white in color. Drug treatment such as pain relievers, blood thinners, antidepressants, or narcotics may help you manage these symptoms, but some patients dislike the side effects that often accompany this approach. At The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine, we have had great success with transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), which uses electricity to block pain signals. Certain types of neuropathy can be relieved with surgery to relieve nerve compression. Research suggests that guided relaxation has a powerful effect on people with diabetic neuropathy.

Don’t Forget About Those Toes!

Because the feet are covered up for longer periods in the winter — locked up inside boots, socks, and slippers — we tend to put them “out of sight, out of mind.” This can be a devastating error for diabetics who could see a minor blister escalate into a limb-threatening ulcer. You’ll want to conduct regular foot exams to be sure there is no friction rubbing against the skin. A red spot on the sides of the feet, tops of the toes, or heels can become a portal for infection. Dry, cracked heels can also be enough to allow bacteria entry into the body.

Sedentary Lifestyle Leads To Swelling.

Podiatrists also note that people tend to be more sedentary in the winter. Sitting around inside can make the feet and ankles swell more than usual. If you spend long spats sitting during the day, be sure you perform a few basic leg exercises a couple times a day to keep the blood flowing and prevent pooling.

Diabetic Foot Care in NYC

The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine, with offices in Westchester and Manhattan, specializes in diabetic foot care. Whether you need advice on footwear, treatment for neuropathy, immediate foot sore attention, ingrown toenail debridement, or solutions for chronic pain, we are here to lend a compassionate ear and help! Book your appointment online to be seen without delay.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.