Diabetes complications information infographic illustration, Images from; freepix.com

Diabetes and foot problems

Having diabetes means you’re at a much greater risk of developing foot problems. But understanding how diabetes affects feet can help you avoid these complications.
Raised blood glucose levels, also known as blood sugar, can damage the sensation in your feet. This can also affect your circulation, leading to less blood supply to your feet. Without a good blood supply, you may have problems with cuts and sores healing. You may also get cramps and pain in your legs or feet. If you don’t get these foot problems treated, they could lead to foot ulcers, infections and, at worst, amputations. Most foot problems can be prevented with good, regular foot care.

Your feet are important, especially if you have diabetes. With diabetes, it means you’re much more likely to develop problems with your feet – problems that could end up as amputations. But most amputations can be prevented. If you take good care of your feet and check them regularly, you can reduce your risk of developing foot problems. 

If you smoke, stop

Most people know that smoking isn’t good for you. But when you have diabetes, smoking causes even more problems. Smoking makes it harder for blood circulation, which is when blood moves around your body, including to your feet. So this puts you at even more of a risk of amputation. 

If you think you might need help to stop smoking, take the first step and ask your GP for support.

Check your feet, every day!

Because of your diabetes, foot problems can get worse quickly. That’s why we’ve got some guidance on what signs to look out for when you check your feet. 

Whether you’re about to put your socks on, or you’re taking them off before bed, have a good look. Any changes, you should see a podiatrist or GP straight away.

If you struggle to lift your feet up, then you might want to use a mirror to see the soles of your feet. If this is too hard, or if your eyesight is not as good as it was, try to get someone else to check your feet for you. And if you need help but live alone, it’s good to speak to a healthcare professional about how to check your feet. 

If you’ve lost any feeling in your feet, you need to be especially careful as you won’t know if you’ve hurt yourself. If you’re unsure if you’ve lost any feeling, you ask someone to help you do the Touch the toes test or speak to a healthcare professional.

Eat well and be active

Get support from a dietitian so you know what to eat and how food affects you. We’ve got lots of information to help you eat a healthy, balanced diet.

Keep active! This will help you manage your diabetes and reduce your risk of serious foot complications. If you’re worried about what activity to choose, speak to your healthcare team.

Watch out cutting your nails

Cutting your nails seems simple. But if you have diabetes, piercing the skin by mistake can lead to other injuries. And you might not even notice you’ve done it.

When you cut your toenails:

  • cut them often but not too short or down the side
  • trim them with nail clippers and then use an emery board to file any corners
  • clean them gently with a nail brush – don’t use the sharp points of scissors to clean them as this isn’t safe.

Washing daily is also a simple way to keep your feet and toenails clean and away from infection. Just a simple mix of soap and warm water will do, but always check the temperature before you put your feet in. Be careful not to soak your feet as this just makes the skin soggy and more likely to get damaged.  

If you’ve lost some sensation in your feet or you’re worried about things like ingrown toenails, see a foot specialist. They’re used to helping with these things.

Make sure your footwear fits

If your shoes or socks are too tight, too loose or rub, then don’t wear them.

The right shoes and stockings, tights or socks will help keep your feet healthy. Shoes that don’t fit well, even those that feel comfortable, can cause all sorts of problems. As can things like old innersoles, or socks with holes or thick seams. 

This is why you need to choose footwear carefully. Our tips should help you find the right footwear in a high street store at a decent price.

It’s good to buy shoes that:

  • are broad fitting
  • have a deep and rounded toe area
  • are low heeled
  • are fastened by a lace or buckle to stop your feet from sliding around.

If you’re unsure of the fit or style that is best for you, then ask a registered podiatrist for advice. There are many services that can help, like the The Royal College of Podiatry

Use moisturising cream every day

Using emollient cream will keep your skin healthy. It’s best to talk to your healthcare team about which emollient cream is right for you. Don’t put cream between your toes, as this can cause problems. The same for talcum powder – if it gets clogged up between your toes, it could also cause excessive dryness.

Don’t use blades or corn plasters

Your skin needs to stay healthy. Don’t use plasters to remove corns or blades on your corns or tough skin as they could damage your skin. Pumice stones can also help with tough skin, but use them with care. If you need help with corns or other skin problems, it’s always a good idea to speak to a podiatrist.

Get expert advice

A trained professional should check your bare feet once a year. It’s a good chance to check anything you might have spotted with them yourself. But don’t wait a whole year to ask them. If you notice a problem – get it seen as soon as you can.

Once you’ve had your annual foot check, you need to find out your risk of developing a serious foot problem. If you’re moderate or high risk, your healthcare professional should explain exactly what this means. They’ll also tell you if you need to see a foot specialist.

Ask us any questions. The more you know, the more you can keep an eye on any changes in your feet.

For more information please look on Diabetes.org.uk