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How Does Diabetes Affect Your Feet


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SSM Health Medical Minute How does diabetes affect your feet?

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Stabilize And Relieve Feet With Orthotic Shoes

Because wearing correct shoes is so important, orthotic footwear is a great investment in protection and comfort. Shoes made especially for people with diabetes are available at specialty stores and online, or you can visit your podiatrist for advice. Medicare Part B will cover one pair of extra-depth or custom-molded diabetic shoes a year, plus additional inserts to reduce pressure on your feet. Your doctor may recommend these shoes to you if you have an ulcer or sore that is not healing.

Why Does Diabetes Affect Your Feet

Diabetes is a group of different conditions characterised by the body being unable to convert blood glucose, , allowing blood sugar levels to vary greatly.

Uncontrolled glucose builds up in the blood leading to high blood glucose levels which cause the health problems linked to diabetes.


These health problems can cause immediate and long term damage to the bodys soft tissues, typically affecting the nerves and blood vessels.

Often people with diabetes with uncontrolled glucose levels are at risk of developing serious foot conditions that can involve ulcerations which then can sometimes lead to amputation.

Managing your blood sugar levels through a well-planned diet intake and daily exercise regime can reduce the risk of complications.

Adding to this, podiatry care has been shown to be beneficial in monitoring the health of the foot in patients with diabetes.

Diabetes can affect the sensation and blood flow in the feet. Podiatrist will monitor your foot health and can make a difference in reducing ulceration and amputation.


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Prevention Of Foot Problems

You can prevent foot problems by washing and checking your feet daily for injury. Through vigilance, you can catch any problems when they first occur.

If you find that you have foot problems because of your diabetes, schedule an appointment with Dr. Rambacher and his team at Podiatry Hotline Foot & Ankle. They will assess your condition and suggest a treatment plan, as well as monitor your recovery to ensure the problem doesnt worsen.

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What Is Diabetic Neuropathy

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Chronically high sugar levels associated with uncontrolled diabetes can cause nerve damage that interferes with the ability to sense pain and temperature. This so-called “sensory diabetic neuropathy” increases the risk a person with diabetes will not notice problems with his or her feet. Nearly 10% of people with diabetes develop foot ulcers due to peripheral vascular disease and nerve damage. People with diabetes may not notice sores or cuts on the feet, which in turn can lead to an infection. Nerve damage can also affect the function of foot muscles, leading to improper alignment and injury.


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What Causes Diabetic Feet

Long-term high blood sugar can cause a type of nerve damage called diabetic neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy can occur throughout the body, but most often in the legs and feet.

The condition might make you lose feeling in your feet. If your feet are numb, you might not notice a blister, cut or sore. You might not even feel a pebble in your sock that is cutting your foot, for example. Wounds that go unnoticed and untreated can become infected.

Diabetes can also affect blood flow to your legs and feet. People with diabetes are more likely to develop peripheral artery disease . This condition causes arteries to become narrowed or blocked. Reduced blood flow can make it difficult for a diabetic foot ulcer or infection to heal.

Symptoms Of Peripheral Neuropathy

Having diabetes doesnt automatically mean youll develop peripheral neuropathy, and knowing what the earliest symptoms are may help you avoid it. Earlier care leads to better outcomes. Some of the common early symptoms include:


  • Pain or tingling in your feet
  • Wounds that either dont heal or take a very long time to heal
  • Swollen feet
  • A change in your gait
  • Loss of muscle tone

If you notice any of these signs, schedule an appointment at AllCare Foot & Ankle Center right away. Peripheral neuropathy can have serious consequences, including amputation, if its not treated.

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What Is Peripheral Vascular Disease

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.

Go Feet Keeps Your Feet Healthy

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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 Should I Do If I Have These Symptoms

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.

How Diabetes Affects Your Feet

Did you know at least 50% of people with diabetes develop chronic and debilitating foot pain? Plus an additional 10% of diabetics get problematic foot ulcers that can become a serious infection risk.

The good news is you can take steps to prevent diabetic foot trouble and stop serious complications from developing.


As part of our comprehensive line of services, board-certified podiatrist , and the experienced team at South Sound Foot & Ankle provide patients in Olympia, Washington, with excellent diabetic foot care.

Read on to better understand how diabetes affects your feet and the steps you can take to keep them healthy.

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What Is The Outlook For People With Diabetic Foot

Diabetic foot ulcers are fairly common in people who have had diabetes for a long time. Even with foot checks and careful blood glucose monitoring, some people with diabetes develop infections.

The outlook depends on factors such as:


  • How early the wound was found.
  • Presence of infection and how much it spreads.
  • Treatment effectiveness.

If the infection cant be controlled and spreads too far, amputation may be necessary.

Could You Have Nerve Damage

How Does Diabetes Affect Your Feet

Anyone with diabetes can develop nerve damage, but these factors increase your risk:

  • Blood sugar levels that are hard to manage
  • Having diabetes for a long time, especially if your blood sugar is often higher than your target levels
  • Being overweight
  • Having high cholesterol

Nerve damage, along with poor blood flowanother diabetes complicationputs you at risk for developing a foot ulcer that could get infected and not heal well. If an infection doesnt get better with treatment, your toe, foot, or part of your leg may need to be amputated to prevent the infection from spreading and to save your life.

When you check your feet every day, you can catch problems early and get them treated right away. Early treatment greatly reduces your risk of amputation.

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How To Avoid Injury To Feet With Damaged Nerves

Suggestions include:

  • Wear appropriate shoes to protect your feet.
  • Avoid injury by wearing well-fitting, protective shoes do not wear open-toed shoes.
  • Keep toenails trimmed. Cut toenails along the shape of the toe and file rough edges.
  • Have corns or calluses treated by a podiatrist.
  • Check the temperature of your bath water with your elbow before stepping into the bath.
  • Be careful not to put your feet too close to radiant heaters.
  • Every six months, check for signs and symptoms that may indicate you have a problem. These may include reduced circulation or sensations, abnormal foot structure or poor hygiene.

Keep The Blood Flowing To Your Feet

Try the following tips to improve blood flow to your feet:

  • Put your feet up when you are sitting.
  • Wiggle your toes for a few minutes throughout the day. Move your ankles up and down and in and out to help blood flow in your feet and legs.
  • Do not wear tight socks or elastic stockings. Do not try to hold up loose socks with rubber bands.
  • Be more physically active. Choose activities that are easy on your feet, such as walking, dancing, yoga or stretching, swimming, or bike riding.
  • Stop smoking.

Smoking can lower the amount of blood flow to your feet. If you smoke, ask for help to stop. You can get help by calling the national quitline at 1-800-QUITNOW or 1-800-784-8669. For tips on quitting, go to SmokeFree.gov.

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Diabetes And Foot Problems

Foot problems are common in people with diabetes. You might be afraid youll lose a toe, foot, or leg to diabetes, or know someone who has, but you can lower your chances of having diabetes-related foot problems by taking care of your feet every day. Managing your blood glucose levels, also called blood sugar, can also help keep your feet healthy.


When To See Your Doctor Or Podiatrist

Diabetes and How It Affects the Feet
  • Any breaks in the skin need to be treated straight away, so see your doctor or podiatrist. Also, try to work out what might have caused the problem so that you can prevent it happening again.
  • If one of your feet is hot and swollen, check it again the next day รข see your doctor if it remains hot and swollen. Antibiotics may be needed to treat an infection.
  • Toenail infections should be treated promptly.
  • Let your doctor know if you develop pain in the feet and legs or notice changes in the colour or temperature of your feet and legs.

Your feet should also be examined regularly by a doctor, diabetes specialist or podiatrist. Your doctor or podiatrist can advise you on foot care and also on the selection of appropriate footwear.

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Circulation In People With Diabetes

Poor blood circulation can affect the blood supply to your feet. When this is reduced, cuts and sores may not heal. An early sign of poor circulation to the feet may be pain or cramps in the backs of your legs when walking.Circulation problems can be caused by hardening or narrowing of arteries as they become clogged up. Common causes include:

  • smoking

When To See Your Doctor

If you experience any of these symptoms, dont wait for your next appointment. See your regular doctor or foot doctor right away:

  • Pain in your legs or cramping in your buttocks, thighs, or calves during physical activity.
  • Tingling, burning, or pain in your feet.
  • Loss of sense of touch or ability to feel heat or cold very well.
  • A change in the shape of your feet over time.
  • Loss of hair on your toes, feet, and lower legs.
  • Dry, cracked skin on your feet.
  • A change in the color and temperature of your feet.
  • Thickened, yellow toenails.
  • Fungus infections such as athletes foot between your toes.
  • A blister, sore, ulcer, infected corn, or ingrown toenail.

Most people with diabetes can prevent serious foot complications. Regular care at home and going to all doctors appointments are your best bet for preventing foot problems .


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Signs Of Foot Issues With Diabetes

Poor blood circulation and blood flow can slow the healing process of sores on your feet, putting you at risk for serious life-threatening complications.

Even if you havent lost feeling in your feet, bring the following symptoms to your doctors attention. Signs of feet issues include:

You can avoid serious diabetes complications by seeing your doctor and getting treatment early for conditions that affect your feet.

Diabetes And Your Feet

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Get your feet checked at every health care visit.


If you have diabetes, heres a way to keep standing on your own two feet: check them every dayeven if they feel fineand see your doctor if you have a cut or blister that wont heal.

Theres a lot to manage if you have diabetes: checking your blood sugar, making healthy food, finding time to be active, taking medicines, going to doctors appointments. With all that, your feet might be the last thing on your mind. But daily care is one of the best ways to prevent foot complications.

About half of all people with diabetes have some kind of nerve damage. You can have nerve damage in any part of your body, but nerves in your feet and legs are most often affected. Nerve damage can cause you to lose feeling in your feet.

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How Are Diabetic Feet Diagnosed

To diagnose diabetic foot, a healthcare provider will:

  • Ask about your symptoms and how well youre controlling blood glucose.
  • Examine your toes, feet and legs.
  • Touch the toes, feet and legs with various tools to check whether you have numbness.

If a diabetic ulcer or blister is present, the healthcare provider will likely:

  • Examine it for any signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, warmth, discoloration or discharge.
  • Order tests to take pictures deeper than the skin, such as X-ray or MRI.
  • Take a sample of the skin or discharge to test for infection.

Keep Your Feet Dry To Reduce The Risk Of Infection

Make sure that drying your feet is part of your hygiene routine. The space between the toes is very airtight, says Tillett. Skin gets moist and breaks down, leading to infection. Prevent this by toweling off thoroughly after washing your feet and by removing wet or sweaty socks or shoes immediately. As mentioned previously, you can still use moisturizer to prevent dry, cracked skin just avoid putting it between your toes.

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Trim Your Toenails Straight Across

Trim your toenails, when needed, after you wash and dry your feet. Using toenail clippers, trim your toenails straight across. Do not cut into the corners of your toenail. Gently smooth each nail with an emery board or nonsharp nail file. Trimming this way helps prevent cutting your skin and keeps the nails from growing into your skin.

Have a foot doctor trim your toenails if

  • you cannot see, feel, or reach your feet
  • your toenails are thick or yellowed
  • your nails curve and grow into the skin

If you want to get a pedicure at a salon, you should bring your own nail tools to prevent getting an infection. You can ask your health care provider what other steps you can take at the salon to prevent infection.

Gangrene And Charcot Foot

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Gangrene treatment involves antibiotics to kill bacteria and stop an infection, as well as surgery to remove damaged tissue. Treatment for Charcot foot involves preventing further deformity.

Wearing a cast to immobilize the foot and ankle can gradually strengthen these bones, as does wearing custom shoes or a brace. In severe cases, surgery can help correct a deformity.

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Tips For Diabetic Foot Care

Proper foot care can prevent these common foot problems or treat them before they cause serious complications. Here are some tips for good foot care:

  • Take care of yourself and your diabetes. Follow your doctor’s advice regarding nutrition, exercise, and medication. Keep your blood sugar level within the range recommended by your doctor.
  • Wash your feet in warm water every day, using a mild soap. Test the temperature of the water with your elbow because nerve damage can affect sensation in your hands, too. Do not soak your feet. Dry your feet well, especially between your toes.
  • Check your feet every day for sores, blisters, redness, calluses, or any other problems. If you have poor blood flow, it is especially important to check your feet daily.
  • If the skin on your feet is dry, keep it moist by applying lotion after you wash and dry your feet. Do not put lotion between your toes. Your doctor can tell you which type of lotion is best.
  • Gently smooth corns and calluses with an emery board or pumice stone. Do this after your bath or shower, when your skin is soft. Move the emery board in only one direction.
  • Check your toenails once a week. Trim your toenails with a nail clipper straight across. Do not round off the corners of toenails or cut down on the sides of the nails. After clipping, smooth the toenails with a nail file.
  • Always wear closed-toed shoes or slippers. Do not wear sandals and do not walk barefoot, even around the house.
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