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Diabetes and Foot Complications

Armen Hareyan's picture

Serious foot complications develop as a result of the impact that diabetes has on blood vessels and the body's circulatory system. Among other complications, diabetes can cause nerve damage (neuropathy). It is especially common for people with diabetes to have diminished feeling in their feet. Unable to feel pain, diabetics are particularly susceptible to foot problems that, left untreated or detected too late, often lead to amputation.

From 60% to 70% of diabetics are affected by neuropathy. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) reports that about 56,000 lower limb amputations are performed on diabetics each year. The ADA adds that at least half of these could be eliminated through proper preventative foot care. Otherwise minor conditions such as ingrown toenails, corns and calluses can be precursors to serious problems for people with diabetes. Diabetics are also at higher risk for fungus infections of the skin and toenails. Also, because diabetics have difficulty feeling problem areas, a hammertoe or bunion that is constantly rubbing against one's shoe, for example, can progress to infectious ulcers.

People with diabetes must engage in daily foot care and have regular podiatric check-ups. Once a foot problem develops, it can be difficult to resolve. Poor circulation combined with limited sensation, also prohibits or delays proper healing. Someone newly diagnosed with diabetes should have their feet checked and any problem areas corrected. Bunion or hammertoe surgery early on, for example, will prevent serious problems from developing. Or, sometimes, changing a person's shoes is all that is necessary. In fact, for eligible patients, Medicare offers a Diabetic Shoe Program through which the patient is entitled to a specially fitted shoe. Everyone with diabetes should have at least one podiatric check yearly.

The following information about "Diabetes and Your Feet" has been compiled by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Self-Care: How to Check Your Feet

Wear your glasses
Sit down in good light
Take shoes and socks off
Use a mirror to look at areas that are hard to see, such as the soles of your feet
If you have trouble seeing your entire foot, ask someone to help you

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What to Look For
Call your primary care physician or podiatrist if you have:

Foot injuries that do not heal within three days
Areas that are "hot" to touch
Blisters or bleeding
Calluses, corns, or plantar warts
Ingrown toenails
Dry skin
Unusual itching
Change in color (from pale to deep purple or red)
Thick, rough or hard areas
Areas of very shiny skin
Bad smell

How to Care For Your Feet

Keep your blood sugar in control.
Wash your feet every day with warm water and soap. Dry well, especially between the toes.
Look at the tops and bottoms of your feet for red areas or sores.
If your feet are dry, use lotion, but not between the toes.
If your feet sweat, use powder.
Trim your nails straight across after washing your feet. Smooth them with an emery board.
If you have nerve disease, check with your doctor to see if it is safe to trim your toenails.
Wear cotton or wool socks or stockings.
Exercise with your doctor's consent.
Always wear shoes or slippers that fit well. Check shoes for rocks or other objects before you put them on.
Make sure your doctor or health care provider checks your feet at each visit.
Ask your doctor to check the sense of feeling and pulses in your feet at least once a year.


Do not smoke. Smoking can cause a decrease in the blood flow to your legs and feet.
Do not walk barefoot.
Do not use chemicals such as alcohol, peroxide, or iodine on your feet.
Do not cut corns or calluses with a razor blade.
Do not bathe in water that is too hot. Check the temperature of the water with your elbow or arm before getting into the bathtub or shower.
Do not go out in the cold weather without wearing warm shoes or boots.
Do not use an electric heating pad or a hot water bottle on your feet.
Do not get sunburned. Cover your feet to protect them from the sun.
Do not wear tight-fitting shoes; wrinkled or tight stockings; tight sandals, straps, garters, or bandages.


Newton-Wellesly Hospital News - http://www.nwh.org/
By NWH Health



My fiance is on a government pension and cannot afford to go to the doctor. He has open weeping sores on his legs and shooting pains going to the bone, also in his legs. These usually occur during the night and are affecting his ability to work. Can you suggest some treatment to help? We have tried comfrey and various lotions and putting gauze on and bandaging his legs to absorb the fluid. These only help up to a point. Pain pills help a bit but then make him sleep excessively. We are both getting desperate. Thanks.
Don't play with it, this is his life you are messing with. Go to an emergency room and they will see him. Amputation comes quickly when you don't take care of things with diabetes... God bless both of you.