Healthy Feet For People With Diabetes

By Dr. Mark Hinkes, DPM

Copyright © 2012

Provided with permission by Dr. Mark Hinkes, DPM

NOTE: Excerpts are provided on for informational purposes only. The information contained within will not be updated by dLife and may be outdated. Please consult your doctor before acting on anything described here.

Diabetes and Your Feet
When you were diagnosed with diabetes, your doctor and other health care providers probably talked with you about this health condition and gave you educational materials to help you better understand the impact this disease has on your body. This book focuses specifically on the foot problems faced by people with diabetes. Like all complications of diabetes, foot problems are better controlled when your blood sugar is controlled.

Chronically elevated blood sugars cause damage to your nerves and blood vessels. The smallest arteries, called arteri¬oles, that circulate blood to your extremities and organs, become narrowed or blocked. When this happens, the nerves that the arteries serve are deprived of the fresh oxygenated blood and nutrients needed to function normally. Over time, the nerves will fail.

The results of nerve failure include loss of vision, loss of kidney function, and loss of protective sensation for pain in the foot, also known as "diabetic sensory neuropathy." This condition leaves your foot vulnerable to painless or silent trauma that can lead to foot ulcers, infections, hospitalizations and amputations. So, if you do a good job of controlling your blood sugars, you will be less likely to develop foot problems.

The foot is a very sturdy structure. You need healthy feet to remain active and independent. While everyone's feet are subject to physical forces, stresses, and deformities, people with diabetes must be even more vigilant about foot care. As a person with diabetes, your body responds differently to than the average person and you are at higher risk to develop complications. Please, don't take your feet for granted. It's better to know than to be sorry.

Warning Signs of Foot Problems
If you experience any of the following symptoms, this is your body giving you a warning sign that your foot is at risk and you need to seek professional foot care. Common foot problems that might normally seem to be a minor disturbance can quickly turn into a major health issue for people with diabetes.

  • Swelling: foot or ankle swelling
  • Temperature: cold feet or legs; increased warmth
  • Color changes: redness, skin color changes or discolored, streaked or thickened toenails
  • Pain: leg pain, especially when wearing shoes; pain on the inside of your arch or the bottom of your heel; soreness when you step out of bed in the morning; any persistent pain; burning feeling in your feet; even pain when at rest or while walking
  • LOPS: loss of protective sensation for pain; that is, the loss of the ability to feel pain in your feet
  • Cramps: cramps in your leg when you walk; painful cramps in the toes
  • Numbness: numbness in your feet
  • Open Sores: even small ones, with or without drainage
  • Wounds: especially those on your foot or leg that do not heal promptly
  • In-grown toenails: sides of toenails digging into skin that may hurt
  • Corns and calluses: whether painful or painless, calluses on the bottom of the foot or corns on the toes
  • Hair: lack of hair growing on foot
  • Bony Bumps: bones that stick out, such as large bony bumps behind the big toe on the inside of the foot, or large bony bumps behind the small toe on the outside of the foot
  • Shape changes: change in the size or shape of your foot or ankle, toes that are cocked up or bent, or a deformity of the mid-foot
  • Balance: loss of balance or falling because you cannot feel the floor with your feet
  • Rash: skin rash
  • Dry, scaly skin: feet that are always dry and scaly and sometimes itch

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Last Modified Date: August 07, 2013

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by Brenda Bell
Many people say that depression is a side effect or complication of diabetes. Without discounting the association of the psychological condition with the physical one, I'm not convinced that our high and/or unstable glucose levels are directly responsible for that change in our mental state. My belief is that the unrelenting need for self-care, for following the sort of care schedules that can drive licensed, professional caregivers crazy, is what overwhelms us...
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