Some people with diabetes develop numbness in the feet or poor blood flow. That can make it difficult to notice blisters, sores and cuts. Undetected and untreated wounds can quickly become infected, leading to complications and sometimes amputation. There are many strategies to protect your from wounds and infection.
People with diabetes often have problems with their feet. They may develop foot develop sores, deformities and infections more easily.
If not treated quickly, a foot ulcer or blister on a person with diabetes can get infected. Sometimes a surgeon must amputate (remove) a toe, foot or part of the leg to prevent the spread of infection.
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Foot problems often occur in people with diabetes, especially among those who have:
The chance that a person with diabetes will develop a foot condition at some time in their life is about 15%.
Long-term high blood sugar can cause a type of nerve damage called diabetes-related neuropathy. Diabetes-related neuropathy can occur throughout the body, but most often in the legs and feet.
The condition might make you lose feeling in your feet. If your feet are numb, you might not notice a blister, cut or sore. You might not even feel a pebble in your sock that is cutting your foot, for example. Wounds that go unnoticed and untreated can become infected.
Diabetes can also affect blood flow to your legs and feet. People with diabetes are more likely to develop peripheral artery disease (PAD). This condition causes arteries to become narrowed or blocked. Reduced blood flow (poor circulation) can make it difficult for a diabetes-related foot ulcer or infection to heal.
The signs of diabetes-related neuropathy may include:
If diabetes-related neuropathy leads to foot ulcers, symptoms to watch out for include:
To diagnose diabetes-related foot conditions, a healthcare provider will:
If a diabetes-related ulcer or blister is present, the healthcare provider will likely:
Care for diabetes-related foot pain may involve a doctor who specializes in the feet, called a podiatrist. Treatment may include:
Depending on how severe the infection is, your healthcare provider may recommend hospitalization. Sometimes amputation is necessary to prevent infection from spreading to other parts of the body.
To avoid hyperglycemia and diabetes-related neuropathy, you should manage blood sugar carefully.
You can also reduce the risk of diabetes-related foot problems by:
It’s just as important to avoid certain things. Don’t:
Diabetes-related foot ulcers are fairly common in people who have had diabetes for a long time. Even with foot checks and careful blood glucose monitoring, some people with diabetes develop infections.
The outlook depends on factors such as:
If the infection can’t be managed and spreads too far, amputation may be necessary.
If you have diabetes, tell your healthcare provider right away if you experience:
People with diabetes also can develop Charcot foot, a rare complication that can cause permanent deformity. In Charcot foot, nerve damage weakens the bones and joints. The bones can break, and the joints can dislocate or collapse.
Read more about preventing diabetes complications.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
People with diabetes are at risk for ulcers and infections, which may go unnoticed in people with diabetes-related neuropathy and numbness. If you have diabetes, it’s important to care for your feet every day and report any problems to your healthcare provider. Early treatment can prevent hospitalization, deformity and amputation.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/26/2021.
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