Living with diabetes blog

Be on the lookout for foot problems with diabetes

By Peggy Moreland, R.N., C.D.E. August 5, 2016

Some long-term problems from diabetes, such as nerve damage and narrowed arteries in your legs, make foot injuries or infections more likely.

You may think that if you injure your foot you should have pain, right? Actually, diabetes damages nerves in your feet so you may not be able to feel a cut, blister, bruise or other small injury. If you don't see these injuries, they can get worse and lead to other, more serious, problems.

A few years ago, a gentleman called and said that he and a friend went hiking in the desert all day and when he got home he noted that he had blood on the bottom of his sock. He looked in the shoe and saw that a cactus needle had pierced his shoe. He ended up in the hospital with a bad infection on his foot.

People have been known to walk around all day with a small object in their shoe which they weren't able to feel. If your feet don't get enough blood because you have narrowed leg arteries, even a small foot injury may not heal. This can lead to an infection or to tissue death, also known as gangrene. Gangrene may require removal, or amputation of part of a foot or leg.

Here are some strategies to prevent foot problems:

  • Keep your feet clean and dry, especially between the toes.
  • Wash your feet every day with lukewarm water.
  • Don't go barefoot, even at home. Wear shoes or sturdy slippers at all times.
  • Wear clean, dry socks.
  • Check inside your shoes for any tear or rough edges that could injure your foot.
  • Shake out your shoes before you put them on to make sure there's nothing inside.
  • Choose a comfortable and safe style of shoe, such as those with closed toes, low heels and soles that aren't slippery.
  • Trim toenails straight across. See your podiatrist for deformed toes. Don't cut off or file corns, calluses or bunions.

Examine your feet every day or have someone else look at them for you. Using a mirror can help you to see all parts of your feet. Contact your health care provider right away if you notice any of the following foot problems:

  • Blisters, cuts, sores, bruises or any other injury that doesn't heal within a few days.
  • Cracking, peeling, wrinkly or itchy skin.
  • Signs of infection such as redness, red streaks, warmth, swelling, pain or any fluid, pus or blood leaking from under skin.
  • Changes in color — more pink, pale, dark or red color than usual, or if your skin has turned black.
  • Changes in the alignment or shape of your feet or toes.

Keep the muscles in your feet and legs strong. If you're able, take a walk. Walking helps to keep the muscles in your feet strong.

Aug. 05, 2016