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Tips for Performing a Foot Self-Examination

June is Wound Care Awareness Month, and one of the essential ways to spread awareness about wound care is to share how to prevent wounds from happening! One common wound that the MCB Wound Care Clinic sees a lot of is diabetic foot ulcers. Did you know that 25% of people living with diabetes will develop a diabetic foot ulcer? One of the crucial ways to prevent a foot ulcer from occurring is to perform daily self-examinations on your feet. Checking your feet is an important way to reduce the chances of developing a serious foot problem. For people with diabetes, it's very important to regularly check your feet as nerve damage and reduced circulation caused by diabetes can mean having reduced awareness of pain (neuropathy) and slower healing. Unfortunately, 85% of diabetes-related amputations started with a foot ulcer. However, by performing regular foot self-examinations, you can catch any signs of damage so that it can be addressed at the earliest stage and therefore prevent a problem that poses any serious risk to health. Of course, self-examinations never replace the foot examinations you should be getting done at least annually at your physician's office, but they do help you take control of your health and can prevent serious foot problems from occurring. Below are 5 things you should be looking for when checking your feet.

5 Things You Should Be Checking for in a Foot Self-Examination:

1. Appearance – The appearance of your foot is the fastest way to determine its health. If you notice any discoloration on the nailbed or the foot itself, that's a sure sign that something may be wrong. In addition to discoloration of the foot, look for other indicators like blisters or calluses which could indicate that you’re not wearing the right shoes. If you notice anything strange, set up an appointment with a foot specialist.

2. Function – Now put your foot to the test. Try and pick something up with only your foot and see if you can achieve it. This helps to test your foot's flexibility and range of motion. Once you've done this test, stand on the edge of a staircase facing up the stairs and let your heel hang off the step. Lower your heel a bit so that it’s below the edge of the stair. If you notice any pain, you might need to enact some strength training exercises or plan a visit with a specialist to address the pain.

3. Blood Flow – To check how well the blood is flowing to your feet, press down on the nail of your big toe until the color turns. Release the pressure on the nail and watch how long it takes for the color to return to its original state. It should return in a couple of seconds. If it takes longer than five seconds, it could be a sign of circulation issues, and you will need to address this with a foot specialist.

4. Sensation – The sensation test can be performed by using a pencil. Using the eraser side of the pencil, gently rub the eraser over all sides of your feet. You should feel the same sensation in all areas, and it may be especially sensitive on the bottom of the feet. If one area feels different or dull, it's time to see your doctor about it.

5. Pain – Take note of any pain you are feeling by performing some range of motion twists and by applying some slight pressure to all areas of your feet. If you discover any pain, set up an appointment with a foot specialist, as healthy feet are pain-free.

Also look out for any general signs of damage that include:

  • Cuts

  • Grazes

  • Sores

  • Bruises

  • Blisters

  • Burns

  • Missing skin

  • Calluses

  • Plantar warts (verrucas)

  • Foot ulcers

  • Bunions (a condition where the big toe starts to point towards the neighboring toes)

  • Any loss of hair on your feet, ankles, or toes

  • Shiny, smooth skin

  • Changes in the shape of the toes (any evidence of one or more toes becoming clawed)

  • Discolored nails

  • Brittle nails

  • Broken toenails

  • Thinning of the nails

  • Thickening of the nails

  • Ingrown toenails

You may need to utilize a mirror to fully check your feet or enlist a friend or family member to help you check your feet if you can't adequately check them yourself. If you find any issues, be sure to get them checked out by your foot specialist as soon as possible. And if you have developed a wound such as a chronic, non-healing diabetic foot ulcer, it's time to ask your doctor for a referral to the MCB Wound Care Clinic, which is conveniently located inside Medical Center Barbour. The MCB Wound Care Clinic offers patients state-of-the-art outpatient clinical wound care and hyperbaric medicine to heal your wounds and get you back to the life you love, sooner!


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