For people that have diabetes, it is vitally important that they learn to care for their nails. Your nails protect your fingers and toes from injury and trauma. Diabetics have decreased sensation in the fingers and toes, so it is critical that the nails are kept in good condition.
The condition of your nails can be a great indicator of health problems. Healthy fingernails and toenails will be smooth, slightly curved and somewhat pink. If your nails are not healthy looking, this may indicate some type of underlying disease.
Diabetics are prone to developing a fungal infection known as onychomycosis. This fungal infection accounts for approximately 50% of all nail infections. Onychomycosis will produce thick, brittle nails that can develop sharp points and do injury to the surrounding skin. Unnoticed small cuts on the fingers and toes can be a portal for bacteria that leads to fungal infections.
To keep the nails from developing fungal infection, it is important that all diabetics learn proper nail care. If the fungal infections go untreated they can lead to foot ulcers and gangrene. Many diabetics have lost part of a foot or even a whole foot from diabetic foot ulcers.
- The best way to keep nails free from fungus is to have good hygiene. Keep the fingernails and toenails clean and make sure to dry the feet thoroughly before putting on socks and shoes.
- If using a public shower facility or at a public pool, always wear shoes or sandals.
- A person with diabetes should only wear comfortable fitting shoes that are not too tight. Diabetics should only wear synthetic socks that will wick moisture away from the skin of the feet.
- Do not use artificial nails. Artificial nails trap water under the nails and this moisture will promote fungus growth.
- Nail care tools should be kept very clean and sterilized with alcohol before each use.
Diabetics should learn diabetic nail care to not only preserve the integrity of the nails, but to also be able to determine the presence of other underlying diseases. When caring for the nails, take note if they look unusually pale or white. Pale looking nails could indicate anemia. If the nails are shaped like the back of a spoon, this could indicate lung disease, cancer or an infection. If any changes in the nails are noticed, it is critical to let your doctor know right away.
Diabetics will also find that nail care of the lower extremities will also help to improve their health and well-being. Because diabetics often suffer from peripheral vascular compromise it is easier for them to suffer from infections which can lead to drastic measures — including amputation. By caring for the feet and nails carefully diabetics can often find problems early before such drastic measures must be taken.