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Diabetes and the Risk of Foot Problems: What to Know

Women Massaging Her Feet
Did you know that diabetics are more likely to need the services of a podiatrist at some point in their lives than non-diabetics? Having diabetes increases the risk of other health issues, including problems with the feet. Without proper care, diabetic foot problems can even lead to amputations.
Diabetes and Nerve Damage
Diabetes can cause nerve damage, which can cause you to either feel pain, tingling, or nothing at all in your feet. If you lose feeling in your feet because of this condition, called diabetic neuropathy, you can injure your feet without realizing it and have the wounds become infected.
Diabetes and Wound Healing
Having diabetes also means that you may have less blood flow to your feet. This decrease in blood flow is called peripheral vascular disease. This effect could mean any wounds you have on your feet don't heal as well and are more likely to become infected or develop gangrene. If not treated, gangrene can lead to a need for amputation.
Diabetes and Foot Function
The nerves of the feet help the muscles to work properly, so if the nerves become damaged, you may have trouble walking properly. Excess pressure on certain areas of the feet from changes in your gait can cause calluses and ulcers on the foot, which could cause further foot issues. These ulcers affect about 10 percent of diabetics.
Diabetes and Misshapen Feet
Another foot problem sometimes associated with diabetes is Charcot's foot. In this condition, the nerve damage brought on by diabetes causes your foot to actually change shape and develop a rocker bottom. It starts with warmth, redness, and swelling, and then bones in the feet move or break.
Diabetes and Skin Changes
Strange as it may seem, the release of oil to keep the skin of your feet from becoming dry is controlled by nerves. As mentioned above, diabetes can damage these nerves, causing the skin to become dry and cracked. Avoid soaking the feet, and use a thin layer of moisturizer or petroleum jelly (avoiding in between the toes) after bathing to lock in moisture.
Other Potential Foot Problems
Any foot problem can be more dangerous when you have diabetes, so make sure to see a doctor and get any issues properly treated. Examples of other foot problems include corns, plantar warts, ingrown toenails, hammer toes, bunions, blisters, fungal infections, and athlete's foot.
Ways to Limit the Risk
Thankfully, you don't have to just assume you will experience all these issues if you are diabetic. Try these following tips to limit the risk of foot problems:
  • Always wear socks and closed-toe shoes that fit well and allow your feet to breathe. This practice limits the risk of injuries to your feet.
  • Wash and thoroughly dry your feet every day, especially in between the toes where moisture can linger and cause issues. Also, don't put lotion between your toes.
  • Keep your feet away from heat sources, as you may not feel if you are burning your feet. Wear warm socks if your feet are cold, and wear waterproof footwear if it's wet outside.
  • Don't cut calluses or corns with razors or scissors. Gently smooth them with a pumice stone to limit the risk of ulcers.
  • Trim toenails straight across to limit the risk of ingrown toenails.
  • Check your feet every day for any injuries and treat these injuries right away to limit the risk of infection. Have your doctor check your feet at every doctor visit.
  • Put your feet up often during the day whenever you're sitting, as this can improve the blood flow. Don't sit with crossed legs, as this decreases blood flow.
  • Stop smoking, as smoking increases the risk of circulation problems.
If you have questions about diabetes and issues with the feet, contact Greenville Podiatry Associates PA for more information. They can tell you the steps to take to prevent or minimize these issues and help with any treatment you may need.