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SUMMER FOOT CARE

It's summertime, and people are heading outdoors, they'll need to take care of their feet. Flimsy sandals, "flip-flops," and no shoes at all are the rule. Folks will be swimming and wading, in the pool and at the beach. Of course people with diabetes will be there with everyone else. People are enthusiastic: having fun, playing sports, enjoying their leisure -- and putting their feet at risk.

Many diabetics have diminished tactile sensation in their feet. They may be less aware of a blister, a cut, or an infection, and in the summer, without the protection of good footgear, they are at increased risk. Diabetes is the single greatest cause of lower extremity amputations -- and they stem from runaway infections left untreated because, being diabetics, with diminished pain reflexes in our feet, we didn't notice them in time.

This summer, keep your feet! Keep your blood glucose down in the "normal" range (below 126mg/dl). Do this with regular exercise, proper diet, and attention to your medications. Wear properly-fitted shoes, even indoors -- and make sure they are constructed of materials that "breathe" (many man-made "leather substitutes" may look stylish, but they can trap sweat and encourage foot infections). Ask your podiatrist for advice here.

If you're going to wade at the beach, check out the "water shoes" available at local dive shops. Barefoot is not a good idea for anyone; it's too easy to find a piece of broken glass the hard way.

Be sure to inspect your feet; blisters, calluses, cuts, splinters, "athlete's foot," and "thrush" infections can cause trouble. Take action promptly -- see your podiatrist before small problems get big. Enjoy, but take precautions.