When you’re diagnosed with diabetes, there are certain things you need to do to stay healthy, including checking your blood sugar and keeping your A1C low. Because diabetics are also at increased risk for potentially life-changing foot problems, it’s important that they watch for warning signs and take action quickly to avoid serious complications.
Watch for These Diabetic Foot Problem Warning Signs
Poor blood circulation and nerve damage are the two most common medical complications to develop in diabetic feet. If they aren’t properly dealt with, you may end up with permanent foot damage or even eventually need amputation. To avoid such a catastrophic outcome, you need to pay careful attention to key foot problem indicators.
Signs of Foot Problems
- Thick and yellowed toenails
- Discoloration of the skin on either foot
- Dry and painful cracked skin
- Hair loss on the feet and toes
- Numbness or tingling, which may indicate a nerve has become compressed or nerve damage (neuropathy)
- Slow-healing sores
- Swelling in the feet and ankles
- Temperature changes where specific parts of the foot feel colder than others
- Weakness in the foot
While soreness and pain can be an indicator of several different foot problems, it’s often the lack of discomfort that’s the real problem for diabetics. Impaired nerves in your feet may not actually send pain signals to your brain, which makes it easy to miss a wound before it gets worse.
How to Prevent Diabetic Foot Problems From Getting Worse
Because people with diabetes tend to have impaired circulation, even minor injuries to either foot may become dangerous very quickly. Because there is less blood flowing, any injury on the foot will typically take longer to heal and be more susceptible to infection.
Something as simple as a cut you don’t notice due to numbness can become infected and lead to major health problems. It’s also easier to experience damage from extreme heat or cold if you can’t feel the pain in your toes. That’s why you should take precautions to avoid serious problems.
Preventative Care for Your Feet
- Avoid walking barefoot. If you can’t feel the bottoms of your feet, you are more likely to unknowingly suffer a cut or burn that could lead to severe complications. Walking on a small sharp pebble or a stretch of overly-hot sidewalk can lead to major medical consequences.
- Clean your feet with soap and water regularly, and make sure to thoroughly dry your feet and toes before wearing socks or shoes.
- Examine your feet closely every day for blisters, cracking, corns, cuts, swelling, or any type of wound.
- Moisturize with lotion to prevent foot drying and cracking. You may need to use moisture-wicking socks as well for added protection.
- Be conscious of wound care. Even small cuts, bruises, or growths should be addressed and treated as soon as you notice them.
- Trim your toenails regularly.
- Visit a podiatrist as soon as you notice any warning signs of diabetic foot problems.
Daily preventative actions are your best course of action, but a podiatrist can still help if you are diabetic and have already developed serious foot issues. There are treatments available for peripheral neuropathy caused by diabetes that can help repair damaged nerves and restore function. Depending on your specific symptoms, you may also benefit from using custom orthotics to provide additional support and reduce pressure on foot sores. In more extreme cases, surgery may become necessary to deal with diabetic complications