Causes:Several risk factors increase a person with diabetes
chances of developing foot problems and diabetic infections in the legs and feet.
- Footwear: Poorly
fitting shoes are a common cause of diabetic foot problems.
- Nerve damage: People with long-standing or poorly
controlled diabetes are at risk for having damage to the nerves in their feet. The medical term for this is peripheral
- Poor circulation: Especially when poorly controlled, diabetes can lead to accelerated hardening
of the arteries or atherosclerosis. When blood flow to injured tissues is poor, healing does not occur properly.
to the foot: Any trauma to the foot can increase the risk for a more serious problem to develop.
Athlete's foot, a fungal infection of the skin or toenails, can lead to more serious bacterial infections and should be treated
- Ingrown toenails should be handled right away by a foot specialist. Toenail fungus should also
- Persistent pain can
be a symptom ofsprain, strain, bruise, overuse, improperly fitting shoes, or underlying infection.
- Redness can be a sign of infection, especially when surrounding a wound,
or of abnormal rubbing of shoes or socks.
- Swelling of the feet or legs can be a sign of underlying inflammation or infection, improperly fitting shoes,
or poor venous circulation. Other signs of poor circulation include the following:
- Pain in the legs or buttocks that increases with walking but improves with
- Hair no longer growing on the lower legs and feet
shiny skin on the legs
- Localized warmth can be a sign of infection or inflammation, perhaps from wounds that won't heal or that
break in the skin is serious and can result from abnormal wear and tear, injury, or infection. Calluses and corns may be a
sign of chronic trauma to the foot. Toenail fungus, athlete's foot, and ingrown toenails may lead to more serious bacterial
- Drainage of pus from a wound is usually a sign of infection. Persistent bloody drainage
is also a sign of a potentially serious foot problem.
- A limp or difficulty walking can be sign of joint problems, serious infection, or improperly
- Fever or chills in association with a wound on
the foot can be a sign of a limb-threatening or life-threatening infection.
- Red streaking away from a wound or redness spreading out from a wound is
a sign of a progressively worsening infection.
- New or lasting numbness in the feet or legs can be a sign of nerve damage from diabetes, which
increases a persons risk for leg and foot problems.
Self-Care at Home - A person with diabetes should do
- Foot examination: Examine your feet daily and also after any
trauma, no matter how minor, to your feet. Report any abnormalities to your physician. Use a water-based moisturizer every
day (but not between your toes) to prevent dry skin and cracking. Wear cotton or wool socks. Avoid elastic socks and hosiery
because they may impair circulation.
- Eliminate obstacles: Move or remove any items you are likely to trip over or bump your feet on. Keep clutter
on the floor picked up. Light the pathways used at night - indoors and outdoors.
- Toenail trimming: Always cut your nails with a safety clipper, never
a scissors. Cut them straight across and leave plenty of room out from the nailbed or quick. If you have difficulty with your
vision or using your hands, let your doctor do it for you or train a family member how to do it safely.
- Footwear: Wear sturdy, comfortable shoes whenever feasible to protect your feet.
To be sure your shoes fit properly, see a podiatrist (foot
doctor) for fitting recommendations or shop at shoe stores specializing in fitting people with diabetes. Your endocrinologist
(diabetes specialist) can provide you with areferral to
a podiatrist or orthopedist who may also be an excellent resource for
finding local shoe stores. If you have flat feet, bunions, or hammertoes, you may need prescription shoes or shoe inserts.
- Exercise: Regular exercise will improve bone and joint health in your feet and
legs, improve circulation to your legs, and will also help to stabilize your blood sugar levels. Consult your physician prior
to beginning any exercise program.
- Smoking: If you smoke any form of tobacco, quitting can be one of the best things you can do to prevent problems
with your feet. Smoking accelerates damage to blood vessels, especially small blood vessels leading to poor circulation, which
is a major risk factor for foot infections and ultimately amputations.
- Diabetes control: Following a reasonable diet, taking your medications,
checking your blood sugar regularly, exercising regularly, and maintaining good communication with your physician are essential
in keeping your diabetes under control. Consistent long-term blood sugar control to near normal levels can greatly lower the
risk of damage to your nerves, kidneys, eyes, and blood vessels.