Diabetes and Foot Problems

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

Type 2 Diabetes: Learn the Warning Signs

Quick GuideDiabetes and Foot Problems Pictures Slideshow

Diabetes and Foot Problems Pictures Slideshow

What are examples and symptoms of foot problems caused by diabetes?

In the most severe case, as mentioned above, due to a combination of decreased sensation and reduced blood flow to the feet, ulcers may develop. If the tissues continue to receive insufficient oxygen, tissue death (gangrene) occurs. Gangrene is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition. Other potentially serious problems that may develop include cellulitis (infection of the tissues beneath the skin) and osteomyelitis (infection of the bone); sepsis (the infection spreads to the bloodstream) also is  possible.

People with diabetes are at increased risk for milder problems with the feet that are not specific to diabetes but may occur more frequently due to problems with the nerves and circulation to the feet.

Some of these conditions are:

  • Calluses and corns, that may develop due to abnormal alignment of the feet or abnormal gait
  • Fungal infections of the nails, which can appear as thickened, discolored, and at times brittle nails
  • Tinea pedis, or athlete's foot, a fungal infection of the skin of the feet
  • Hammertoes, or bent toes due to muscle weakness.
  • Bunions, or the angling of the big toe toward the second toe. The area of the bunion may become reddened and irritated, leading to callus formation.
  • Ingrown toenails
  • Cracking of the skin of the feet, especially the heels, due to dry skin
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/3/2016
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