Fundamentals of Diabetic Foot Problems

Foot problems are a major reason behind hospitalizations for diabetics. Diabetes can affect nerves in the foot and prevent you from feeling injuries. It can also cause reduced or altered blood flow, which can prevent injuries from healing. Because minor injuries can become major infections among diabetics, it is important to keep a diabetic foot healthy. Prevention is the key to avoiding foot problems in diabetic patients.

Common diabetic foot problems include:

What causes diabetic foot problems?

The loss of nerve function – neuropathy – among diabetic patients in their feet and legs typically develops over time. Because patients cannot feel foot injuries as acutely as those without diabetes, they may inadvertently ignore foot problems. Therefore, pain is not an early indicator of problems in diabetic patients. Poor circulation and decreased immunity to infection can also lead to serious diabetic foot problems.

Symptoms of diabetic foot problems include pain or a tingling foot sensation in the feet at night. Ulcers, infections, and other problems may be painless. As a result, routine self-inspection of each foot is of utmost importance. Additionally, patients may experience unsteadiness in standing and walking due to the loss of sensation. Finally, the foot may have swelling, redness, ulcers, and bleeding, all of which should alert the patient to call a physician.

What are the benefits of treatment?

If you are diabetic and have a foot problem, you should contact your doctor for evaluation and treatment. To take care of the foot, you should do the following:

  • Wear shoes that fit properly.
  • Inspect each foot daily for blisters, cuts, sores, and other problems. 
  • Avoid going barefoot.
  • Avoid exposure to temperature extremes.
  • Do not self-treat corns, calluses, or ingrown toenails.
  • Instead, see a physician for treatment.
  • Have regular foot examinations.
  • Keep your feet warm.
  • Control your diabetes by monitoring your blood sugar levels and taking prescribed medications.
  • Do not ignore minor problems, as they can become severe very quickly in diabetics.

Serious foot problems that have resisted conservative treatment methods may require surgery. Surgery may be aimed at removing a foot infection, realigning bony deformities, or an amputation to prevent further problems.

What are the risks of treatment?

Risks of foot surgery include nerve injury and infection. As you still have diabetes, problems can recur in the future.

Reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional.

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