Diabetes and Your Feet

Listed below is information about foot problems associated with diabetes.
Links to documents and websites containing information are in green.

Please Note: This website contains general information about certain medical conditions and potential treatment options. The information is intended solely for educational purposes, not medical advice, and should not be used to self-diagnose or self-treat any medical condition. Please consult a podiatric physician if you have any questions about any matter involving your feet or legs and/or if you need to seek podiatric care for any foot or leg problems you may be experiencing.


Your Feet Can Reveal Diabetic Complications

Millions of Americans have diabetes and don’t even know it! The rate of diabetes is much higher for racial/ethnic groups than for whites. For instance, the Latino community has diabetes rates twice as high as those of whites. African Americans are also twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as whites. In addition, they are more likely to suffer complications from diabetes, such as lower extremity amputations.

The feet, which are often overlooked during regular medical checkups, can reveal the first signs and symptoms of diabetes and other serious medical conditions. The type and severity of complications suffered as a result of diabetes vary from person to person, so it is very important that a podiatric physician becomes part of your Diabetes Management Team.


Common Foot Problems Associated With Diabetes

People with diabetes can develop many different foot problems. Even ordinary problems can get worse and lead to serious complications.

Dry Skin - Skin complications for those who have diabetes are quite common, with almost thirty percent of diabetic patients suffering from one skin complication or another. Fungal and bacterial infections, cracked, dry feet, and constant itching are all symptoms of diabetes.

Diabetic Foot Ulcers - A diabetic foot ulcer is an open sore or wound that most commonly occurs on the bottom of the foot in approximately 15 percent of patients with diabetes. Of those who develop a foot ulcer, six percent will be hospitalized due to infection or other ulcer-related complications. Ulcers form due to a combination of factors, such as lack of feeling in the feet, poor circulation, foot deformities, irritation (such as friction or pressure), and trauma, as well as duration of diabetes.

Corns and Calluses - Corns and calluses occur more often and build up faster on the feet of people with diabetes. It is best to leave the treatment of calluses to your podiatric physician. Using chemical agents to treat your calluses can burn your skin.

Peripheral Arterial Disease - Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is caused by a blockage or narrowing of the arteries in the legs when fatty deposits called plaque build up. The buildup of plaque causes the arteries to harden and narrow, which is called atherosclerosis. This results in a reduction of blood flow to the legs and feet and is commonly referred to as poor circulation. People with diabetes are at higher risk of developing PAD, and individuals with PAD are four to five times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.

Diabetic Neuropathy - Diabetic neuropathy is the most common type of neuropathy and affects up to two thirds of patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Diabetic neuropathy often involves the feet and legs and is responsible for lack of sensation, ease of injury, and infections.

Charcot Foot - Charcot foot is a sudden softening of the foot’s bones caused by severe neuropathy, or nerve damage, a common diabetic foot complication. It can trigger an avalanche of problems, including joint loss, fractures, collapse of the arch, massive deformity, ulcers, amputation, and even death. As the disorder progresses, the bottom of the foot can become convex, bulging like the hull of a ship. Since most people with Charcot cannot feel pain in their lower extremities, they continue walking on the foot, causing further injury.


Proper Foot Care for Diabetics

Diabetes complications in the feet can be very dangerous. In fact, diabetes is the leading cause of non-traumatic lower-limb amputation. Fortunately, these complications and amputations can be prevented. With proper foot care, and regular visits to a podiatric physician, you can manage the effects of the disease on your feet. Podiatric physicians are uniquely qualified among medical professionals to treat the foot and ankle, based on their education, training, and experience.

Diabetes & Your Feet FAQs - The feet can reveal diabetes warning signs such as numbness, redness, swelling, or non-healing wounds. Read these frequently asked questions to learn more.

Amputation Prevention Checklist - People with diabetes need to pay special attention to their feet and watch carefully for any signs of complications. Regular foot examinations can help reduce the risk of amputation in people with diabetes by 45 - 85%.

Take Care of Your Feet for a Lifetime - This informative guide, designed specifically for people with diabetes, will help you control diabetes, and its effects on your feet, for a lifetime.


Additional Information