However, people with diabetes should not use Epsom salt as a foot treatment.
An excess of sugar in the bloodstream can lead to nerve damage and poor blood flow, which can result in serious foot problems. If a person with diabetes soaks their feet, it can lead to severe complications.
This article looks at the relationship between diabetes and Epsom salts and debunks a range of myths about the common foot remedy, as well as how a person with diabetes can look after foot health.
Epsom salt and diabetes
No studies support the use of Epsom bath salts for people with diabetes.
The scientific name for Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate. It is a mineral compound with many different uses.
However, people with diabetes should avoid using it.
No form of foot soak is appropriate for people with diabetes.
Epsom salt has become a common home remedy for various problems, and its proponents claim that it provides a range health and beauty benefits, such as:
- soothing muscle aches and pain
- providing relief from sunburn and poison ivy itches
- removing splinters
- decreasing swelling in the body
- boosting levels of magnesium and sulfate
The theory behind this product is that the body absorbs the magnesium from the Epsom salts through the skin.
However, no studies support these claims. Simply soaking the feet in warm water can help with many of the above issues.
Diabetes and foot complications
Soaking the feet can dry out the skin, which can further irritate the foot issues common to people with diabetes.
Individuals with the condition tend to have dry feet, as well as nerve damage resulting from diabetic neuropathy.
Prolonged soaking can also open small cracks that may be present in the skin, allowing germs to enter.
While an Epsom salt foot soak may sound relaxing, people with diabetes should avoid soaking the feet for long periods or in too hot of water.
High blood sugar levels can cause damage to the nerves of the body. This is commonly referred to as neuropathy. The most common type for people with diabetes is peripheral neuropathy, or damage to the nerves in the legs and arms.
As a result, people with diabetes may lose feeling in their feet. It is common for people with diabetes to feel neither feel pain, heat, nor cold in their legs and feet. Some may not notice when they have a sore on their foot or develop a blister.
Infection can easily enter and inflame open sores on the feet. High blood sugar levels help feed the infection, making it worse. Poor circulation complicates the healing of these sores.
Common foot problems that cause infections in people with diabetes include:
- corns and calluses
- ingrown toenails
- plantar warts
- dry and cracked skin
- athlete's foot
- fungal infection
People with diabetes should regularly check for signs of a foot infection and contact their doctor immediately if any signs become obvious.
The tell-tale signs and symptoms of infection include:
Diabetes also causes changes to the skin of the foot. People with diabetes may notice that their feet are extremely dry, and the skin is starting to peel and crack. The nerves controlling skin oil and moisture in the feet stop working, leading to dry skin.
People with diabetes may develop poor circulation. This reduces the ability of the body to fight infection and heal wounds in a condition known as peripheral artery disease. The blood vessels in the feet and legs also narrow and harden.
If an infection becomes too severe or does not heal fully, it can cause gangrene. Gangrene kills the skin and tissue around a sore and can turn area a blackish color with a rotting smell. This can often lead to amputation and the loss of limbs.
In addition to pain, nerve damage can also lead to foot deformities. Hammertoes or collapsed arches might occur.
Foot care tips for people with diabetes
Pumice stones can help with foot care.
There are steps that people with diabetes can take to take care of their feet.
Daily foot care as well as controlling blood sugar levels is essential not only for the feet but overall health.
- Daily monitoring: Examine the feet every day for any potential sores, blisters, cuts, scrapes, bruises, or abnormal blemishes.
- Washing the feet: Gentle clean the feet with lukewarm water and mild soap. Over-soaking can dry out your skin.
- Drying the feet thoroughly: Give special attention to the area in between the toes. Excess moisture between the toes is a breeding ground for fungus.
- Moisturizing the feet all over: A moisturizing lotion can help keep the skin from drying out so quickly. Do not put moisturizer between the toes.
Always wear properly fitting shoes and socks. Shoes that are too tight can create pressure points on the feet that can eventually break down and lead to additional problems.
An emery board can be used to file rough edges, and a pumice stone can help get rid of calluses. People with diabetes should never burst blisters or pick at sores.
It is important for a person with diabetes to regularly trim their toenails. If an ingrown toenail develops, visit a doctor.
People with diabetes should always contact a doctor right away if they have an injury to their foot or an area does not appear to be healing. Prompt attention can help ward off infections or other complications.
Is there any way to have a relaxing foot soak if I have diabetes?
The American Diabetes Association discourages foot soaks.
When your feet are wet and wrinkly, they are more easily damaged, so be gentle even when you have just been soaking them as you shower. Make sure the water is not too hot and that you dry your feet well.
If you are going for a pedicure, find someone who has training in caring for the feet of people with diabetes.Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.