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How Does Diabetes Affect The Feet

Can Skin Problems Associated With Diabetes Be Prevented

How does Diabetes Affect the Feet?

Keeping your diabetes under control is the most important factor in preventing the skin-related complications of diabetes. Follow your healthcare providers advice regarding nutrition, exercise, and medication. Keep your blood glucose level within the range recommended by your healthcare provider. Proper skin care also can help reduce your risk of skin-related problems.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/05/2015.


Go Feet Keeps Your Feet Healthy

At Go Feet, we teach you how to care for your feet. As a diabetic, its important to check your feet every day for any cuts, abrasions, or blisters and treat them right away. Feel for warmth, corns or calluses, and plantar warts. Raise any concerns with the team at Go Feet.

Wash your feet every day, and dry them thoroughly to prevent fungal infections, such as athletes foot. Make sure you get between your toes.

Keep up with your toenails, too. Keep them trimmed straight across to prevent ingrown toenails.

Always wear shoes and socks. Slide your hand into your shoes to check for foreign objects before you place them on your feet. Ask us about your best footwear fit.

You should also take measures to improve blood flow. Elevate your feet when youre sitting, wiggle your toes often throughout the day, and pump your ankles. Include more physical activity, such as walking, yoga, swimming, or cycling into your routine. If youre a smoker, consider kicking the habit. Smoking compromises circulation and overall health.

If you have diabetes, you need to be diligent about the health of your feet. The practitioners at Go Feet are here to help you. Call the office, or make your appointment online for a foot check, and learn the best ways to keep your toes and soles healthy.

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What Are Some Risks If I Dont Get Treatment

Diabetes-related foot pain is more than just pain its a warning sign from your body. This type of nerve pain can lead to complications if you dont see a doctor and get treated. Below are some of the problems that can come from untreated diabetes nerve pain:

  • Dry, cracked skin. This may not sound too bad, but when your skin is too dry, your risk of getting skin infections goes up. If this happens, plain petroleum jelly or unscented hand creams can help. Just avoid placing moisturizers between your toes.

  • . This is an area of thickened skin that has less feeling. People with diabetes get calluses faster and more often than those without diabetes. You can use a pumice stone daily to help keep them at a minimum. If they get really thick, a doctor can cut or shave them down. Never attempt to do this at home as it can lead to infections.

  • Ulcers. These are sores that happen to some people with diabetes due to poor blood circulation. All ulcers need to be seen by a doctor. The longer you go without seeing a doctor, the more likely it is that it will become infected. Infected ulcers can spread and cause you to lose your foot or leg.

  • Amputations. If the previously listed complications are not treated properly, they can all become infected. Skin infections can cause the skin and muscle tissues to die. Once this happens, it cant be fixed. The only way to stop the infection from continuing to spread is by amputating the infected limb.

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Diabetes Causes Peripheral Vascular Disease

Diabetes accelerates the build-up of bad cholesterol in your vessels. It also damages the vessels and causes a decrease in the release of a chemical called nitric oxide, which functions to relax your blood vessels.

Furthermore, people with diabetes feet receive less blood supply than they actually should. Because of the shortage in the blood supply, the tissues in the feet start to die. It also slows down the healing process of wounds in the feet.

You may experience a few or several of the following problems due to diabetes:

  • Athletes foot: It is a condition in which fungus starts to grow between the toes of your feet. It causes pain, redness and cracking of the skin.
  • Corns: It is the formation of hard skin on the bony sides of the toes or in between the toes.
  • Blisters: These are the fluid-filled bubbles that may form on your feet either due to infection or due to wearing tight shoes.
  • Foot Ulcers: These are the most important foot-related complication of diabetes. These ulcers form from a wound that fails to heal properly.

In closing, if youre diabetic its recommended to check your feet often and if you see anything out of the ordinary contact your doctor immediately.

What Is Peripheral Vascular Disease

How Does Diabetes Affect Your Feet?

Diabetes is associated with poor circulation . Inadequate blood flow increases the healing time for cuts and sores. Peripheral vascular disease refers to compromised blood flow in the arms and legs. Poor blood flow increases the risk that infections will not heal. This, in turn, increases the risk of ulcers and dry gangrene, which is tissue death that occurs in a localized area when there is an inadequate blood supply.

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How Diabetes Affects Feet

More than 9% of Canadians have diabetes and another 22% are pre-diabetic. This means that more than 9 million Canadians* are facing the illness! Diabetes is an insidious disease that causes a wide range of complications, many of which affect the feet. Diabetes can adversely affect your nerves, blood supply and immune system. This in turn can increase your risk of developing foot ulcers and requiring amputation. Some 15% to 25% of diabetics experience foot ulcers* and 85% of amputations are attributed to foot ulcers.** Fortunately, controlling blood sugar and seeing a podiatrist regularly can help prevent these outcomes, as 50% of amputations are avoidable through preventive foot care.**

* Canadian Diabetes Association:

Dont Dismiss Diabetic Foot Problems

Early detection and treatment of diabetic foot problems is the best way to prevent them from becoming severe health problems. Seek our medical help if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Numbness, pain, or tingling in your feet
  • Changes in skin temperature
  • Ulcers that wont heal
  • Fungal infection or warts on your feet
  • Foot swelling

If youve been diagnosed with diabetes, you should make regular appointments so we can monitor your foot health and spot problems in their early stages. The earlier we intervene, the better we can prevent serious and life-changing outcomes like gangrene and amputation.

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Why Diabetes Affects The Feet And Legs

May 10, 2019

Diabetes is an illness where your blood glucose or blood sugar levels are too high. It is caused by the body not being able to process the sugar you consume.

Having too much glucose in your blood can lead to severe problems throughout the body. It can damage your nerves, kidneys, and eyes. Diabetes is also known to cause heart complications, strokes and may even require you to amputate a limb.

What Are Diabetic Feet

SSM Health Medical Minute How does diabetes affect your feet?

People with diabetes often have problems with their feet. Diabetic feet develop sores, deformities and infections more easily.

If not treated quickly, a diabetic foot ulcer or blister can get infected. Sometimes a surgeon must amputate a toe, foot or part of the leg to prevent the spread of infection.

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How Does Diabetes Affect The Health Of My Feet

Diabetes-related foot pain is mainly caused by high blood sugar levels. Over time, high levels of sugar in the blood damage both the nerve endings and blood vessels throughout the body. This combination causes nerve pain and poor circulation.

The feet are especially prone to poor circulation because theyre so far away from the heart. Diabetes-related nerve pain can appear in the hands, but most people who experience it feel it in their feet first.

Other factors that can increase your risk of developing diabetes-related foot pain include being overweight, kidney disease, and smoking.

Diabetics Who Dont Receive Proper Treatment Often Experience Progressive Foot Trouble :

  • First, nerve damage leads to changes in gait and balance. This can alter pressure distribution and cause deformities.
  • If there is too much pressure or friction on specific points, the patient may develop corns and calluses.
  • Due to their compromised internal alarm system, the patient may not notice the callus and continue walking on it, causing a blister.
  • Pressure causes the skin to break, leaving a wound that gets deeper and deeper.
  • Some wounds dont heal and become chronic ulcers.
  • Diabetic foot ulcers are susceptible to infection.
  • If the infection becomes serious and spreads to the bone or if the patient develops gangrene due to poor circulation, the extremity may need to be amputated.
  • With proper care, this domino effect can often be stopped at almost any stage.

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    What You Can Do

    Managing the potential impacts of diabetes on your feet is really a matter of remaining vigilant. Your feet might not be offering the feedback that you need to make good choices. Since that is the case, regularly checking out your feet is a very important thing to do, particularly when infection risks are high. Pairing this with good hygiene habits and visits to the podiatrist when necessary, you can keep your feet safe despite the impacts of diabetes.

    When Should I Seek Medical Care For Diabetic Foot Pain

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    If you have diabetes, tell your healthcare provider right away if you experience:

    • Any changes in foot shape.
    • Any changes to the skin on the feet, including a wound, redness or darkness, warmth or a funny smell.
    • Hair loss on your toes, feet or legs.
    • Loss of feeling in the toes, feet or legs.
    • Pain, tingling, burning or cramping in the feet or legs.
    • Thick, yellow toenails.

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    Protect Your Feet From Hot And Cold

    If you have nerve damage from diabetes, you may burn your feet and not know you did. Take the following steps to protect your feet from heat:

    • Wear shoes at the beach and on hot pavement.
    • Put sunscreen on the tops of your feet to prevent sunburn.
    • Keep your feet away from heaters and open fires.
    • Do not put a hot water bottle or heating pad on your feet.

    Wear socks in bed if your feet get cold. In the winter, wear lined, waterproof boots to keep your feet warm and dry.

    How Diabetes Harms Your Lower Limbs

    Over time, high levels of blood glucose can damage your nerves and blood vessels.

    When nerve damage occurs due to diabetes, it is called diabetic neuropathy. It typically affects the extremities your arms, hands, legs, and feet. When your nerves are damaged, you wont feel the pain from cuts, ulcers , and infections.

    Diabetes is also linked to a condition known as peripheral artery disease, or PAD. This condition narrows ones arteries, which carry blood to the legs and feet. Not getting enough oxygenated blood can interfere with normal healing: wounds will heal more slowly and a cut or open wound may more quickly become infected.

    Often, a diabetic with PAD and neuropathy wont feel any pain that signals something is wrong with the feet or legs. This increases the risk that simple injuries become serious and may include the death of tissue . To avoid the life-threatening spread of gangrene, your doctor may need to amputate the affected toe, foot, or leg.

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    How Does Diabetes Affect My Feet

    Over time, elevated blood sugar, or severe fluctuations between high and low blood sugar can contribute to various changes that can affect your foot health, overall health, and risk or incidence of foot complications. Three main complications can occur in the feet when you have diabetes: peripheral vascular disease , diabetic neuropathy, and structural foot changes.

    What Should I Do If I Have These Symptoms

    Diabetes and How It Affects the Feet

    If you start to notice any unusual sensations or pain in your feet or hands, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Theyll can do a quick test to see if your feet can feel properly. It involves your doctor brushing a soft piece of nylon along different areas of your feet as you keep your eyes closed and say yes every time you think you feel it.

    If you have diabetes, your doctor will likely perform this test at least once a year to catch nerve problems early and help stop them from getting worse. They may also suggest that you meet with a foot doctor . If your doctor thinks you really do have nerve damage, they could ask you to have additional tests done to see how serious it is, but these tend to be more invasive and are not recommended on a regular basis.

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    Managing Foot Pain & Complications Associated With Diabetes

    All complications, changes and conditions of the feet associated with diabetes can be managed with regular foot assessments performed by your healthcare provider, diabetes team, or foot specialist. These assessments will help guide recommendations for treatment depending on your individual needs. Depending on your personal health history, risk level and other individual factors, your healthcare provider may recommend foot assessments every 1, 3, 6 or 12 months.

    The best way to manage your risk of foot complications is daily at-home foot care and regular foot health assessments such as your regular foot exam. Looking for more information on how diabetes affects your feet, or looking to book a foot assessment? We can help contact our team of certified Pedorthists today.

    Tip #: Care For Your Feet Properly

    Follow these foot care tips to properly care for your feet:

    • Wash your feet daily with non-irritating soap and warm water.
    • Avoid soaking your feet.
    • Dry your feet completely after bathing, paying special attention to the areas between the toes.
    • Avoid applying lotion to the areas between the toes.
    • Ask your doctor which lotion is best for your skin type and health condition.

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    How Can Diabetes Affect My Feet

    Over time, diabetes may cause nerve damage, also called diabetic neuropathy, that can cause tingling and pain, and can make you lose feeling in your feet. When you lose feeling in your feet, you may not feel a pebble inside your sock or a blister on your foot, which can lead to cuts and sores. Cuts and sores can become infected.

    Diabetes also can lower the amount of blood flow in your feet. Not having enough blood flowing to your legs and feet can make it hard for a sore or an infection to heal. Sometimes, a bad infection never heals. The infection might lead to gangrene.

    Gangrene and foot ulcers that do not get better with treatment can lead to an amputation of your toe, foot, or part of your leg.A surgeon may perform an amputation to prevent a bad infection from spreading to the rest of your body, and to save your life. Good foot care is very important to prevent serious infections and gangrene.

    Although rare, nerve damage from diabetes can lead to changes in the shape of your feet, such as Charcots foot. Charcots foot may start with redness, warmth, and swelling. Later, bones in your feet and toes can shift or break, which can cause your feet to have an odd shape, such as a rocker bottom.

    Wear Shoes And Socks At All Times

    How Diabetes Affects Your Feet: Michfoot Surgeons PC: Podiatry

    Wear shoes and socks at all times. Do not walk barefoot or in just socks even when you are indoors. You could step on something and hurt your feet. You may not feel any pain and may not know that you hurt yourself.

    Check the inside of your shoes before putting them on, to make sure the lining is smooth and free of pebbles or other objects.

    Make sure you wear socks, stockings, or nylons with your shoes to keep from getting blisters and sores. Choose clean, lightly padded socks that fit well. Socks with no seams are best.

    Wear shoes that fit well and protect your feet. Here are some tips for finding the right type of shoes:

    • Walking shoes and athletic shoes are good for daily wear. They support your feet and allow them to breathe.
    • Do not wear vinyl or plastic shoes, because they do not stretch or breathe.
    • When buying shoes, make sure they feel good and have enough room for your toes. Buy shoes at the end of the day, when your feet are the largest, so that you can find the best fit.
    • If you have a bunion, or hammertoes, which are toes that curl under your feet, you may need extra-wide or deep shoes.1 Do not wear shoes with pointed toes or high heels, because they put too much pressure on your toes.
    • If your feet have changed shape, such as from Charcots foot, you may need special shoes or shoe inserts, called orthotics. You also may need inserts if you have bunions, hammertoes, or other foot problems.

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    Common Foot Problems Seen With Diabetes

    Without a doubt, the most common diabetic foot threat is nerve damage . Also called peripheral or diabetic neuropathy, this complication develops from high blood sugar levels and fats in your blood, which can cause irreversible nerve damage.

    As we mentioned, diabetic neuropathy affects 50% of people with diabetes, making the complication a very real concern. Nerve and vascular damage also makes those with diabetes more susceptible to other foot problems, including:

    Even when you have foot conditions that dont directly stem from diabetes, they require extra care because of the compromised vascular and nerve health in your feet.


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