What are common foot problems associated with diabetes?

Individuals with prolonged periods of elevated high blood sugar are more susceptible to a wide variety of potential problems. Many of those problems can manifest in feet. What foot problems are individuals with diabetes more prone to develop? Keep reading to learn about some of these conditions below.
Wang Lushun

Wang Lushun

Senior Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and Medical Director of Arete Orthopaedic Clinic.

5 Foot Conditions to Watch For

There are several foot issues that individuals with diabetes are more prone to, due to elevated blood sugar levels which can damage nerves and reduce blood flow.

    1. Neuropathy: Neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that often causes tingling, pain, or loss of feeling in the feet. It’s highly common due to its relation to high blood sugar over time. Inability to feel your feet well may lead to untreated injuries due to a lack of sensation in the feet.

    2. Poor circulation: Peripheral artery disease, narrowing the blood vessels and reducing blood flow to the feet could develop due to diabetes. Poor circulation can slow healing, and increase the risk of infection and ulcers. It can also weaken the bones and joints in your feet and ankles, leading to conditions like Charcot foot. Charcot foot occurs when the bones in the foot fracture or dislocate due to numbness and weight-bearing pressure, possibly deforming the shape of your foot.

    3. Foot ulcers: Sores may develop and not heal, as a result of poor circulation and nerve damage. Untreated foot ulcers may lead to serious infections.

    4. Infections: Diabetics are more susceptible to various types of foot infections, including bacterial, fungal, or yeast. These infections can invade bones and joints, leading to serious complications.

    5. Calluses and corns: Calluses and corns can develop due to uneven weight distribution, skin abnormalities, or ill-fitting shoes. If left untreated, they could even turn into ulcers.

Diabetic Neuropathy

Common foot problems associated with diabetes include diabetic neuropathy, which causes numbness, tingling, or loss of sensation in the feet. Peripheral vascular disease, which affects blood flow and can lead to poor healing of foot sores or ulcers; foot ulcers or sores that are slow to heal can become infected.

Charcot foot is a condition where the bones in the foot weaken and fracture due to nerve damage; and fungal infections such as athlete’s foot. Regular foot care, proper footwear, and vigilant monitoring are crucial for individuals with diabetes to prevent and manage these issues.

Brian Clark BSN, MSNA

Brian Clark BSN, MSNA

Pete Martin

Pete Martin

Founder of The Vegan Varsity.

Common Foot Problems Associated With Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease that changes the amount of glucose in the blood. People with diabetes can have problems with their feet if their blood sugar levels are too high. This can be caused by nerve damage and bad blood flow. Here are some of the most common foot problems caused by diabetes:

    1. Nerve Damage: Having too much sugar in your blood can hurt your nerves and make your feet feel numb or lose feeling. This is called neuropathy. People with neuropathy might not feel cuts or scrapes on their feet.
    2. Poor Blood Flow: Diabetes can make the blood vessels in the feet narrow, which can make it hard for wounds to heal or cause cuts to get sick.
    3. Foot Ulcers: Open sores on the lower legs or feet caused by damage or pressure are called diabetic foot ulcers. They don’t get better quickly and can get sick.
    4. Fungus Infections: Some people are more likely to get fungus infections like athlete’s foot, which causes itching and scaling, and nail infections, which change the shape of the nails.
    5. Calluses: Wearing shoes that don’t fit right can put too much pressure on certain parts of the feet, which can lead to calluses or corns, which are hard spots of skin.

People with diabetes should check their feet often for signs of these problems and see their doctor if they notice any changes or have pain or problems that don’t go away. Proper foot care, like washing and cleaning your feet every day, using lotion or moisturizer, cutting your toenails straight across, and wearing shoes that fit well, can help keep most of these problems from getting worse.

Minor Problems to Severe Conditions

Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. One of the common complications associated with diabetes is foot problems, which can range from minor fungal infections to severe nerve damage.

High blood sugar levels in diabetics can cause peripheral neuropathy, where nerves in the feet and legs are damaged, leading to numbness or tingling sensations in the feet. This condition can also result in poor circulation, making it difficult for wounds or ulcers on the feet to heal quickly and properly. Diabetic patients are more prone to developing foot infections due to weakened immune systems resulting from uncontrolled glucose levels.

Other common foot problems include dry skin, calluses/corns, blisters/breaks in skin tissue caused by ill-fitting shoes, or abnormal gait patterns due to muscle weakness. Thus, diabetic patients need regular monitoring by healthcare professionals who specialize in diabetic care as early detection and treatment play an important role in minimizing further complications related.

Dr Bassam Zeina, MD, PhD

Dr Bassam Zeina, MD, PhD

Jessica Watson

Poor Circulation Leads to Various Problems

Due to its effects on blood circulation and nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy), diabetes can cause a variety of foot issues. Here are a few typical diabetes-related foot issues:

    ● Peripheral neuropathy: Diabetes can harm peripheral nerves, which can cause a loss or reduction of feeling in the feet. This may make it challenging to find wounds, injuries, or infections.

    ● Diabetes-related foot ulcers: Without prompt treatment, lesions or injuries to the feet may go undiagnosed due to decreased sensitivity. Foot ulcers, which are slow-healing sores that might get infected and perhaps cause more serious issues, can result from this.

    ● Peripheral artery disease: Diabetes can also alter blood vessels, which can cause impaired circulation in the legs and feet due to peripheral artery disease. Reduced blood flow can hinder healing and raise the danger of complications and infections.

    ● Charcot foot: In Charcot foot, the bones of the foot begin to deteriorate and may finally collapse, resulting in deformity. Peripheral neuropathy is one possible cause, and patients may not experience discomfort or recognize the early symptoms of this illness.

    ● Fungal infections: Diabetes might increase a person’s susceptibility to fungi that cause diseases like athlete’s foot. Fungus infections can result in itching, redness, and cracking of the skin between the toes or on the feet.

    ● Calluses and corns: Calluses and corns can form as a result of excessive pressure or friction placed on the feet by abnormal foot structure or poor footwear. If not treated appropriately, they can become uncomfortable and raise the possibility of developing ulcers.

For people with diabetes, proper foot care is essential to preventing certain foot issues. Regular foot inspections, dry and clean feet, comfortable and well-fitting shoes, and fast medical assistance for any foot problems are all vital. Regular consultations with a medical specialist, like a podiatrist, can help keep an eye on foot health and handle any issues.

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