It's no secret that having diabetes puts you at great risk of foot problems — but why? If you've ever wondered why diabetes patients have foot problems, or if you are curious about what foot problems are caused by diabetes, this is the resource for you. Keep reading to learn more about diabetic foot problems and management.
Does diabetes cause foot problems?
Yes. Foot problems are one of the most common complications of diabetes — according to the CDC, about 50% of people with diabetes are likely to experience nerve damage, especially in the feet and lower legs. This nerve damage can result in a variety of foot problems, from seemingly normal corns and calluses to dangerous infections and even, in some cases, the need for amputation.
Why do diabetics have foot problems?
Diabetic foot problems are caused by drastic fluctuations in blood glucose levels, which can damage your nerves and blood vessels over time. This condition, called diabetic neuropathy, is the root cause of many of the most common diabetic foot problems. As diabetic neuropathy progresses, it can lead to loss of feeling in the feet, which can, in turn, result in other serious issues.
Foot problems in diabetics
People living with diabetes can develop many different types of foot problems throughout their lives. Here are four of the most common diabetes-related foot problems.
Wounds, cuts, and ulcers
If you are unable to feel pain due to diabetic neuropathy, it can be difficult to tell when you have an ulcer, cut, blister, or other wound on your foot. Not only is this dangerous because an untreated wound can lead to an infection, but wounds are also generally slower to heal in those who have diabetes.
If a wound becomes infected, it will have difficulty healing due to a lack of blood flow to the feet. When this happens, an infection can quickly become gangrene, which occurs when the tissues and skin in a certain area start to die.
In extreme cases, such as untreated gangrene, amputation may be necessary. The need for amputation is often a direct result of poorly managed diabetes and a lack of sensation caused by neuropathy. Diabetics are much more likely to have an amputation of a lower limb than a non-diabetic person.
Falls, trips, and other accidents
Once diabetic neuropathy has progressed to a certain stage, patients will experience chronic numbness and loss of feeling in their lower legs and feet. This can lead to a greater risk of injuries from a fall or trip.
Diabetic foot care management & prevention
Just because someone has diabetes doesn't mean they'll experience all — or any — of the above foot problems. There are plenty of things that diabetic patients can do to help prevent foot problems from occurring:
Daily Foot Inspections:
- Look for cuts, blisters, redness, swelling, nail problems, or any signs of infection. Use a mirror to check the bottoms of your feet if bending down is difficult.
- Feel each foot for swelling, which can indicate inflammation or infection.
- Check for temperature differences (hot spots could signal infection, while cold areas may suggest poor blood flow).
Hygiene and Moisturization:
- Wash your feet daily with lukewarm water and mild soap, drying gently but thoroughly, especially between the toes, to prevent fungal infections.
- Apply a moisturizer to prevent cracks, but avoid applying it between your toes, which could encourage fungal growth.
- Cut toenails carefully with a clean, sharp nail trimmer. Smooth the corners with a nail file to prevent the nails from growing into the skin.
- If your vision is impaired or you cannot reach your toes, it's safer to have them trimmed by a healthcare professional.
- Always protect your feet from extreme temperatures. Wear appropriate footwear in hot and cold weather to prevent burns and frostbite.
- Test water temperature with your elbow before bathing to avoid scalding, as neuropathy can dull foot sensation.
- Elevate your feet when sitting, wiggle your toes and move your ankles up and down for 5 minutes, 2 or 3 times per day to enhance blood flow.
- Avoid sitting with your legs crossed for long periods, which can reduce blood flow to your feet.
- Engage in regular physical activity that you enjoy, such as yoga, walking, swimming, or cycling, to improve circulation.
- Consult with your healthcare provider to design a safe exercise plan that accommodates your level of neuropathy or any other foot conditions you might have.
- Wear shoes that fit well and offer good support. Consider diabetic shoes and insoles that are specifically made to reduce the risk of pressure sores.
- Break in new footwear gradually to prevent blisters and sores.
- Choose comfortable diabetic socks made of fabric that wicks moisture away from your skin, and avoid tight elastic bands that reduce circulation or thick seams that could rub.
- See your healthcare provider for a comprehensive foot examination at least once a year - more often if you have known foot problems.
- Regular check-ups can detect early signs of nerve damage, poor circulation, or other issues related to diabetic foot problems.
Blood Sugar Control:
- Keep your blood sugar levels in check as your healthcare provider recommends since high glucose levels can lead to neuropathy and reduce blood flow, increasing the risk of foot problems.
Skin and Callus Care:
- Use a pumice stone gently to smooth corns and calluses after bathing when your skin is soft.
- Never cut corns or calluses yourself; avoid over-the-counter medicated pads; see a podiatrist for proper removal.
Immediate Attention to Foot Problems:
- See your healthcare provider immediately if you notice any unusual signs or changes in your feet. Even seemingly small problems can escalate quickly when you have diabetes.
Remember: Effective diabetic foot care management combines self-care, professional care, and lifestyle adjustments. Regularly monitoring your foot health and maintaining an open dialogue with your healthcare provider can greatly reduce your risk of serious foot complications associated with diabetes.
How Viasox can help
If you're concerned about diabetic foot problems, one of the best things you can do is to protect your feet with the right socks. At Viasox, we specialize in offering an extensive range of high-quality diabetic socks crafted with non-binding tops for maximum comfort and optimal circulation. For those managing circulatory concerns, our selection expands to include thoughtfully designed compression socks that promote blood flow and reduce swelling. Explore our entire collection online and find the perfect pairing for your feet. Our dedicated team is always ready to assist you with inquiries, ensuring a seamless shopping experience.