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Diabetes and Foot Complications: What You Should Know

Diabetes and Foot Complications: What You Should Know

Diabetes can result in a lot of different health problems and complications. However, losing a foot or a leg due to diabetes is one of the most troubling among others. There will be a number of diabetic foot complications that will arise when you have diabetes. Let’s find out what they are and how you can prevent them.

Diabetes: Everything you need to know

How does diabetes affect my feet?

There are two major causes of how diabetes affects your feet:

Peripheral diabetic neuropathy

Over time, when your diabetes worsens, it may result in nerve damage. High blood sugar levels can injure your nerves resulting in diabetic neuropathy.

Peripheral diabetic neuropathy refers to the pain or tingling sensation on your feet as well as numbness and loss of feeling in the feet. Peripheral diabetic neuropathy does affect other parts of the body. However, nerves in legs and feet are the most affected.

Loss of feeling in the foot may result in cuts and wounds, since you cannot sense that something is poking or scratching your feet. Not being aware of the cuts and wounds in your feet might result in infection.

Can Nerve Damage Caused by Diabetes Be Reversed?

Peripheral vascular disease

Peripheral vascular disease is another diabetes complication, which targets the blood vessels. When you have diabetes, the blood vessels located in your legs and feet narrow or get blocked due to fat deposits. This reduces the blood flow to your legs and feet.

The cuts and wounds that get infected because of peripheral diabetic neuropathy will not completely heal or not heal at all because of peripheral vascular disease.

When these wounds get infected, it may lead to gangrene and foot ulcers. These two other complications can lead to the amputation of a toe, a foot, or a part of your leg. Amputation happens to prevent infection from spreading to other parts of the body.

Diabetes and foot problems

Anyone can experience foot problems. However, people with diabetes frequently suffer from different foot conditions that may become severe over time.

Here are some foot problems diabetics might experience:


Calluses are layers of skin that have thickened and hardened due to the unequal distribution of weight. You can also develop calluses when wearing tight-fitting shoes. Calluses will start to form when your feet and shoes cause too much friction.

When you have diabetes, calluses tend to develop faster and more frequently on your feet. If calluses are not trimmed regularly, the skin will continue to build-up causing it to crack, leading to open sores or ulcers.


Corns are just like calluses, but they develop more on the bony part of the toes or in between the toes. If not treated immediately, hard skin will continue to pile up, which can cause foot ulcers.

Athlete’s foot

Athlete’s foot is a type of fungal infection, which causes redness, itchiness, dryness, and cracks on the foot. This foot problem is most common in people with diabetes. Athlete’s foot can be treated by using anti-fungal creams and medications. However, if an athlete’s foot is not treated properly, it can become a breeding ground for germs that causes infection.

Diabetic blisters

Diabetic blisters are fluid-filled bumps that develop in the upper layers of the skin. Diabetics who suffer from diabetic neuropathy are more likely to have blisters on their hands, fingers, toes, feet, legs, and forearms. Diabetic blisters are not painful and will eventually heal in a few weeks without leaving any marks on the skin.

Foot ulcers

Foot ulcers are one of the most common diabetic foot complications. This foot problem refers to open sores or wounds. Some foot ulcers only develop at the outermost layer of the skin. However, there are cases when these ulcers penetrate deeper into the layers of skin and tissues.

Foot ulcers can start from a small wound or cut in the foot that does not heal properly. When you have foot ulcers, it is best to get it checked as soon as possible. Foot ulcers can lead to amputation if left untreated.

Symptoms of a foot problem

A diabetic foot problem must be taken seriously and must be given immediate medical attention. If you see the following symptoms, then consult your doctor immediately:

  • Changes in the temperature and color of the feet
  • Pain and tingling sensation in the legs and feet
  • The legs and feet lose the sense of touch as well as the inability to sense cold and warmth
  • Dry, cracked, and itchy skin on the feet, especially the heels and in between the toes
  • Recurrent cramping of the legs, feet, thighs, and buttocks whenever doing any strenuous activity.
  • Cuts and wounds that are taking too long to heal or won’t heal at all
  • Corns, calluses, and feet ulcers
  • Unusual odor due to the athlete’s foot

Who is at risk?

You are at risk of developing peripheral neuropathy and other diabetic foot problems if you are:

  • Diabetic
  • Obese
  • A heavy smoker
  • An alcoholic
  • Over the age of 65

Complications of foot problems

If your foot condition worsens, here are diabetic foot complications you need to watch out for:

  • Gangrene refers to the death of tissues due to restricted blood flow. This foot complication affects the fingers, toes, and limbs.
  • Skin and bone infection happens when wounds and cuts do not heal properly or never heal at all. Diabetics are prone to a variety of infections since their immune system also weakens because of diabetes.
  • An abscess is a lump of pus that forms due to an infection. When you have diabetes, you are more susceptible to infections may it be viral, bacterial, or fungal. An abscess often occurs due to infection that settles in the deeper tissues or bones.
  • Charcot foot occurs when bones in the foot weaken to the point of breaking. This happens when a person suffers from neuropathy. When you have weak bones that break easily, with continued walking, the bones in your feet can change shapes.
  • Amputation is the most common of all diabetic foot complications. When diabetes already causes so much damage in your nerves causing gangrene or when foot ulcers lead to severe infection, there is nothing much you can do but to amputate the foot or a part of your leg. Amputation is a surgical procedure that doctors do to control the disease from spreading to other parts of the body.

Diabetic foot treatments

Aside from taking your usual medications, follow these steps to keep your feet healthy even with diabetes:

  • Check your feet every day for cuts, wounds, blisters, and other worrying skin conditions. If you cannot check on your own, then ask help from a family member.
  • Wash your feet and keep it clean all the time.
  • Apply moisturizer on dry skin, especially on your heels and in between your toes to prevent cracking.
  • Trim your toenails and smoothen your corns and calluses carefully.
  • Always wear comfortable footwear at all times. You can wear comfortable socks at home and remember not to go barefoot. This will protect your feet from wounds and blisters, as well as changing temperatures.
  • Make sure that blood is circulating well in your feet. Elevate your feet when sitting or lying down or just do simple activities that urge you to move your legs and feet.
  • Visit your doctor often to see if your diabetes and foot condition is improving or not.

Key Takeaways

If you have diabetes, you can still prevent and save your feet from complications by treating its symptoms quickly. You can easily get back on your feet by frequently consulting your doctor and by taking prescribed medications and treatments.

Learn more about Diabetes, here.


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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao Updated May 18
Medically reviewed by Elfred Landas, M.D.