If you or a loved one are living with diabetes, you know it can be a lot to manage. Blood glucose levels, medication schedules, and more—it’s a lot of added responsibility! However, there's an aspect that is often overlooked when managing diabetes: foot care.
It’s important for everyone to prioritize foot health, but those with diabetes should pay extra attention. Why? Because diabetes-related nerve damage, known as peripheral neuropathy, can lead to a decrease in feeling or sensitivity of the feet. This makes it difficult to know when there is an injury that needs care, which can ultimately land you in a diabetic foot care hospital.
In this blog, we’ll discuss how diabetes impacts the feet, how to take better care of them, and what to look out for. Read on to learn more!
What Is Diabetes, Exactly?
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that affects the body’s ability to regulate glucose, or sugar, in the blood. There are two main types: type 1 and type 2.
Type 1 is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and is an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to produce little or no insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body turn glucose into energy, and without it, glucose builds up in the bloodstream.
Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t use insulin properly, or when it doesn’t produce enough of it. This type is more common and can develop at any age, although most cases are diagnosed in adults over 45.
With both types, chronically elevated blood glucose levels can lead to medical issues like poor blood circulation, nerve damage, and other diabetic complications. It can also raise your risk of other diseases, like peripheral arterial disease, vascular disease, and kidney disease.
What Foot Problems Are More Common Among People With Diabetes?
People with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing foot complications than those without the condition. This is because high blood sugar levels can damage the nerves in the feet, which in turn can result in a loss of sensation. When someone with diabetes can't feel their feet properly, they may not notice cuts, sores, blisters, or other foot wounds. That means they might continue to walk around on an injured foot, further damaging the tissue and potentially leading to an infection.
Foot ulcers are one such complication that people with diabetes should be aware of. A foot ulcer is a slow-healing foot wound that is more likely to occur in those with poor blood sugar control. Cracked heels are also common, especially in those who have dry skin due to poor circulation. People with diabetes are also at an increased risk of developing Charcot foot, a condition where the bones and joints in the feet become damaged due to nerve damage and poor sensation.
What Signs And Symptoms Should I Be Aware Of?
It’s important to pay attention to your feet and seek professional help if you notice any changes or problems. Be aware of any signs or symptoms that may indicate a diabetic foot issue, such as:
- Swelling or redness of the feet
- Numbness or tingling in the feet
- Pain or tenderness of the feet
- Wounds that won’t heal
- Ulcers or sores on the feet
- Dry, cracked skin on the feet
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, contact the podiatric medicine experts at as soon as possible. Our team has years of experience with wound care and diabetic foot issues, so you can rest assured that you’ll receive the very best care.
How Can I Practice Proper Diabetic Foot Care?
There are lots of things you can do to take care of your feet! From wearing appropriate shoes to trimming your toenails, there are simple measures you can take to prevent or reduce the risk of foot problems.
Perhaps most importantly, you should always make sure to wash your feet daily with warm water, but avoid soaking them for long periods of time. As you wash, check your feet for any cuts, blisters, or sores.
If you notice a wound, even if it doesn't hurt, apply a bandage to the area to help protect it from further damage and aid in the healing process. Be sure to inspect your feet regularly for any signs of infection, such as redness, tenderness, or swelling. If you do find a wound that seems to be infected, contact your doctor immediately for appropriate treatment.
When Should I See A Podiatrist?
For people with diabetes, visiting a podiatrist for regular foot examinations and diabetic foot care is essential. Podiatrists are specially trained to help patients with diabetes maintain good foot health, manage any issues that may arise, and stay out of a wound clinic.
At Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists, our board-certified podiatrists provide comprehensive assessments and treatments for diabetic foot issues. These issues can lead to serious complications, but with proper care from an expert, they can be prevented.