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Keeping Diabetics' Feet and Toes Healthy

Apart from people who have injuries, diabetes is the leading cause of amputation.

Nerves are damaged when the body is not able to manage the sugar levels in the blood properly. Having high concentrations of blood sugar can cause secondary problems for the blood vessels that provide nutrients and oxygen to the nerves. When the nerves of the feet and legs are exposed to these high sugar levels, they begin to lose their ability to function properly. This results in:

Your doctor may refer to this as "diabetic neuropathy." Some of the problems people with diabetic neuropathy may develop include:

Foot Problems Cause by Diabetic Neuropathy

The problems listed above can cause serious foot ailments for people with diabetes. Poor circulation combined with a lack of feeling makes it very easy for a diabetic to injure his or her foot and not even realize it.

Cuts or blisters can easily turn into bedsores. Thes are also know as "pressure sores or "decubitus ulcers". These sores may become infected and have difficulty healing. An open sore like an ulcer leaves the body in danger of:

Prevention and Check Ups

Constant inspection can help prevent damage from this condition. If you have diabetes, have your doctor check your feet at least once a year with a special tool to make sure they have feeling. In addition, use these self-checks each day:

Check and control your blood sugar - It is very important that you get your blood sugar under control. This is the only way to stop the progression of this complication of diabetes. Controlling your sugar level is crucial, as it could help prevent neuropathy and other diabetic complications. This is also the best way to avoid any amputations.

Inspect your feet every day - Look for:

Report these to your doctor right away. Your feet could lose sensitivity and go numb so it is important to check for feeling. For example when you wash your feet, test the water with your hand or a thermometer to be sure it is not above 100 degrees F.

Protect your feet -

Trim your toenails - Keep your toenails trimmed. If you cannot do it yourself, get someone to help you. This will help you from getting any cuts that could lead to infections.

Get the Help You Need

Have someone at home inspect your feet daily for areas of redness or irritation especially on the bottom of the foot and over the tops of the toes. Make sure they also check between each toe because sometimes the web spaces can become too moist. This causes the skin to break down.

It is a good idea to see a podiatrist or other foot care specialist who can provide much more specific advice for keeping your feet in good shape.

What to Do If You Develop a Sore or Blister

If you or someone else notices a sore or blister on your foot, see a foot care specialist right away. This type of mild injury can get worse quickly. If you are in good health you can follow the plan below:

Pay attention to the pain and rest when it is sore. The extra padding from the Band-Aid should help some with the discomfort however remember that pain is the only way your body has to tell you that something is wrong. Listen to it and take it easy for a few days until the pain subsides and you are able to walk comfortably again.

Hope Through Research - You Can Be Part of the Answer!

Many research studies are underway to help us learn about eye diseases. Would you like to find out more about being part of this exciting research? Please visit the following links:

For more information:

Go to the Diabetes health topic, where you can:

This article is a NetWellness exclusive.

Last Reviewed: Apr 18, 2014

Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University