When living with diabetes, it’s really important to take good care of your feet. Minor foot problems can quickly become serious medical issues when you have diabetes. Complications like nerve damage and swelling in your feet can make it harder to notice injuries and make it difficult for them to heal. When wounds aren't treated properly they can become infected and lead to problems such as gangrene, or even amputation.
No matter the type of diabetes you have, you should carefully look after your feet to avoid injuries. Here are five of the most common diabetic foot issues you should look out for.
Nerve damage in the hands and feet is a common side effect of diabetes. This condition is called peripheral neuropathy or diabetic neuropathy. Sometimes this type of nerve damage causes tingling or numbness in hands or feet. It can also be painful, and your hands and feet can become extremely sensitive to touch.
If you have diabetic neuropathy, you should keep an eye out for other complications. For example, numbness in your feet could prevent you from noticing a wound or ulcer. Pain or numbness from neuropathy might also force you to adjust your posture in a way that causes sores to form on your feet.
The longer you have lived with diabetes, the more likely you are to have neuropathy. The good news is by controlling your blood sugar levels, you will reduce your chances of developing these kinds of symptoms.
Diabetic Foot Swelling
Swelling in your feet and legs is a common side effect of diabetes caused by poor circulation. Hot weather, standing for long periods of time, poor diet, or more serious conditions like heart or kidney disease can all lead to swelling in your feet. Some diabetes medications can also cause swelling.
Swelling can be very uncomfortable and it may even prevent seemingly minor foot injuries from healing properly. With this in mind, it’s important to do what you can to alleviate the symptoms.
If you are experiencing diabetic foot swelling, let your doctor know so they can help you manage it. You can reduce foot swelling by putting your feet up throughout the day to help with circulation. If you are standing all day, look into buying special stockings to prevent fluid from pooling in your feet.
You can help prevent foot swelling by controlling your blood sugar levels and exercising regularly.
Diabetic Foot Ulcers
Foot ulcers are wounds that can develop on the bottom of your feet. They begin as pockets of fluid, but open up and become infected if not treated effectively. This is why it is important to check your feet for signs of ulcers on a regular basis.
The most common spots to find ulcers are on the ball of your foot or bottom of your big toe. Early signs of ulcers include swollen spots on your foot, redness or irritation of your skin, and foot odor. You may also notice fluid leaking from your foot or damp spots on your sock or shoe. A quick Google search for “diabetic foot ulcer pictures” will help you understand what ulcers look like. If you notice any of these symptoms, let your doctor know immediately.
Ulcers can be caused by poor circulation. For example, if your shoes are too tight, blood won’t be able to flow to the wound, which keeps it from healing. If you have diabetic neuropathy, you should be extra cautious about ulcers, as nerve damage can prevent you from noticing them until they become more serious.
Fortunately, you can treat ulcers in many ways. Staying off your feet is the best way to help them heal. Wearing diabetic shoes provide extra cushioning for your feet, which can help protect your feet from developing ulcers. You can check out our top picks for diabetic shoes here. Compression wraps and braces may also help.
Calluses are a thick layer of skin that develop when your foot rubs against your shoes, or when you walk barefoot on rough surfaces. For many people, calluses are not anything to worry about, but for people with diabetes, they can become problematic.
Foot ulcers and other wounds can form beneath calluses, which prevent you from noticing them until they become infected. Calluses can also block air flow to injuries, which keeps them from healing. The best way to avoid complications from calluses is to visit a podiatrist regularly to have them removed.
If you notice that calluses develop in the same place over and over, switching to a different pair of shoes may help.
When living with diabetes, it’s important to treat ingrown toenails very carefully so they do not become infected. Unfortunately, any numbness in your feet may make it harder for you to notice ingrown toenails until they are already infected. Be sure to check your toes often for redness and swelling. Always let your doctor know if you suspect you have an ingrown toenail.
To avoid ingrown toenails, always trim your nails straight across, and don't cut them too short. Avoid wearing tight shoes, and have a professional help you find a pair that fits perfectly.
How to Treat and Prevent Foot Issues
Diabetic foot treatments depend on the issue you might be having, but there are a few things you can do to prevent foot problems in the first place. Building a foot care routine into your daily lifestyle will help you notice any issues before they become serious.
Perform regular inspections of your feet to help you spot any injuries early. Check your feet each day before bathing. Here’s what to look for:
- Cuts or sores
- Signs of redness or swelling
- Areas that are extra warm to the touch
- Ingrown toenails
- Dry or cracked skin and calluses
Taking good care of your feet is the very best way to prevent any of the complications above from occurring in the first place. Make sure to wash your feet daily with warm water. After cleaning them, pat your feet dry with a soft towel. Then, moisturize your feet to prevent cracks and dry skin, which can let bacteria in and cause infections.
To protect your feet from wounds, always wear socks and shoes to protect your feet, and make sure your shoes fit properly. Siren Diabetic Socks can also prevent further injuries from developing by helping you find signs of potential injuries you might not be able to see or feel. Read more about how they work and can help you from developing more serious foot injuries here.
If you're interested in learning more about other conditions you should look for if you have diabetes, read our blog post on five diabetes-related skin conditions you should know about.
Disclaimer: Diabetic neuropathy symptoms may vary from individual to individual. Please consult with your doctor before pursuing any of the actions listed above.