What Things Should a Diabetic Check for Daily on Their Feet?

Medically Reviewed on 4/12/2022
What things should a diabetic check for daily on their feet?
If you suffer from diabetes, look for the following signs on your feet. You should also get your feet evaluated once a year by a doctor.

If you are diagnosed with diabetes, either type I or II diabetes, you should take extra care of your feet.

If you suffer from diabetes, look for the following signs on your feet:

  • Wounds, blisters, redness over the sole and foot surface
  • Any corn, callous, or hardened skin
  • Bunions
  • Feel for any numb spots
  • Nail shape and color
  • Nail bed swelling
  • Fungal infection in between the toes
  • Any bleeding
  • Heel cracks
  • Foot swelling
  • Foul smell

All people with diabetes should get their feet evaluated by a doctor or podiatrist at least once a year. This is crucial to detect issues early and prevent ulcers and other consequences.

What causes damage to the feet with diabetes?

Diabetes may cause foot gangrene (tissue death), which is most often caused by delayed treatment of foot injuries.

Foot issues are the most common side effect of diabetes.

There are two main reasons for the damage to feet in people with diabetes.

  1. Reduced blood circulation to the legs and feet
    • Blood flow to your feet might be hampered by poor blood circulation. Cuts and sores may not heal if this is diminished. Pain or cramps in the backs of your legs when walking might be an early indicator of impaired circulation to the foot. Poor blood circulation may delay the healing process.
    • Circulation issues can be caused by artery hardening or narrowing when they get congested. The following are common causes:
      • High blood lipids in the blood
      • Smoking
      • Increased blood glucose levels
    • Avoiding smoking, making diet changes that help lower fat levels in the blood, maintaining proper blood glucose levels, and exercising will help increase blood circulation and reduce excess fats.
  2. Diabetic neuropathy
    • Diabetes can cause nerve damage, which reduces the sensation to touch and cause numbness or insensitive feet. This makes you unaware of tiny scrapes or blisters or burns, which can progress to ulcers. Neuropathy can cause unpleasant feelings, such as burning, tingling, and pain in certain people. This is usually exacerbated at night.
    • Many people with nerve damage do not have any symptoms and are completely ignorant of the situation. They are, however, in danger of getting ulcers.
    • You must take precautions and avoid activities that can potentially harm the skin of the feet. Always check for abnormal sensations and foot structural changes. Foot issues can be prevented with good foot hygiene and by consulting a doctor right away when any issues appear. Get your feet evaluated by a doctor or podiatrist at least one time a year to spot issues early and help prevent consequences.


Diabetes: What Raises and Lowers Your Blood Sugar Level? See Slideshow

What are the “dos and don’ts” for people with diabetes to keep their feet healthy?

8 things people with diabetes should avoid

  1. Wash your feet daily to keep them clean but never wash your feet with hot water, use only lukewarm water.
  2. Do not use a hot water bottle or a heating pad directly on the skin.
  3. Never try to remove corns or calluses by yourself, instead see a doctor. Improper use of the over-the-counter solutions may burn your skin.
  4. Never go around barefoot. Wear shoes, socks, or slippers always, even while inside the house to avoid injury.
  5. Do not use shoes that are not a good fit. Always wear socks with shoes and check for stones or other objects in the shoes before use.
  6. Smoking restricts blood flow to your feet, so avoid smoking to restore proper blood flow to the feet.
  7. Do not moisten between the toes because this may promote fungal infections.
  8. Do not trim your nails too short because you may develop ingrown toenails.

4 suggestions that people with diabetes should follow

  1. Wash your feet gently and use a sponge or washcloth to clean them. Pat them dry after cleaning.
  2. Feet should be moisturized regularly to prevent the skin from drying because it may lead to breakouts and itching.
  3. Cut your nails with care and always file the edges after cutting nails.
  4. Consider socks designed exclusively for individuals with diabetes. These socks include more cushioning, have no elastic tops, are higher than the ankle, and are constructed with moisture-wicking fibers. Socks should be clean and dry and should be changed every day.

When should you see a doctor?

Podiatric medicine is a specialty of medicine that deals with leg and foot disorders medically and surgically.

Podiatrists treat various foot and ankle diseases, from simple to complicated, in patients of all ages, including diabetes. Foot and ankle surgeons are qualified to undertake a wide range of procedures, including any surgery that may be recommended for diabetic foot care due to their extensive education and training.

You must visit a podiatrist when you observe the following changes:

  • Pain or cramping in your buttocks, thighs, or calves
  • Tingling, burning, or discomfort in your feet
  • Loss of touch or the capacity to detect heat or extreme cold
  • Your feet have dry, cracking skin
  • The form of your feet changing throughout time
  • Hair loss on your toes, feet, and lower legs
  • The color of the feet changes and feels warm
  • Yellow, thickened toenails
  • Infections caused by fungi, such as athlete's foot, between your toes
  • A blister, sore, or an ulcer, infected corn, or ingrown toenail is observed

Gangrene in people with diabetes

People with diabetes are at a higher risk of acquiring gangrene. This is because the condition's high blood sugar levels can damage your nerves, particularly those in your feet, making it easier to harm yourself without realizing it.

High blood sugar levels can damage your blood vessels, limiting blood flow to your feet. Because your feet receive fewer infection-fighting cells when there is less blood, wounds take longer to heal and are more prone to become infected.

If you have diabetes, take additional care of your feet and learn more about the importance of foot care to prevent gangrene.

If initial treatments, such as antibiotics therapy, local debridement with maggots, or hyperbaric oxygen therapy, do not work, then the ultimate treatment for gangrene foot or leg is amputation of the leg.

Medically Reviewed on 4/12/2022
Image Source: iStock Image

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes, Foot Health. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/healthy-feet.html

National Institutes of Health. Diabetes and Foot Problems. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-problems/foot-problems

American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. Diabetes Foot Care Guidelines. https://www.foothealthfacts.org/conditions/diabetic-foot-care-guidelines