Care of the legs and feet
Always check the patient's lower legs and feet, especially if the
patient is elderly or has diabetes or circulatory problems. The
patient may have poor sensation and circulation but may not know
that. The patient then may not know about sores or ulcers on his or
her feet or toes.
Look at and feel the lower legs and feet. If the skin of the lower legs
is brownish and thick, or if it is red and shiny, the patient may have
circulatory problems. Check the presence and strength of pulses in
the feet (pedal pulses). Check the colour and temperature of the
feet and toes. Check for swelling of the feet, ankles, and lower legs.
Look between the toes and at the bottoms of the feet.
Danger signs showing circulatory loss, severe infection or gangrene
must be reported immediately to the doctor. These signs are:
· ulcer or infected area with a bad smell
· area painful to touch
· a cool or cold, bluish limb or foot
· white or hard black skin or skin coming off
· decreased or absent pulses
· warm, red streaks from an ulcer or infection running upward
· the patient looks very ill.
If there is a sore or ulcer, get an order for treatment. Calluses can
be softened by soaking the feet in warm water, then shaving the
callus. If the patient has dry skin, bathe the feet or moisten them
with warm water. Dry well between the toes. Apply oil or lotion,
rubbing it in well. Do not apply lotion between the toes.
Giving a foot massage after bathing or caring for the feet can be very
relaxing for the patient.
Tell the patient how to care for any deformities, sores, ulcers or poor
circulation or sensation in the feet and legs. The patient or a family
member should examine the feet every day and keep them clean
and dry. When the patient goes home, he or she should not go
barefoot. If there are any burns, blisters or sores, the patient should
be seen by a health care worker.