Diabetes Foot Care
If you have diabetes, nerve damage and infections can lead to serious foot problems. However, there are steps you can take to maintain healthy ...
Top of page
Nerve damage, circulation problems, and infections can lead to serious foot
problems if you have diabetes. However, there are precautions you can take to
maintain healthy feet.
Good management of your diabetes and an overall healthy lifestyle helps to
keep this disease under control. This should include regular medical exams, monitoring
of blood sugar, regular exercise, and a balanced diet rich in fruits and
You can help prevent serious complications involving your feet by following
a good foot care regimen.
Daily Foot Care
There are a few habits you should adopt and try to do every day. If you are physically unable to inspect your
own feet, use a mirror or ask someone to help:
- Don’t sit with your legs crossed or stand in one
position for long periods of time.
- Check your feet and toes, inspecting the top, sides,
soles, heels, and the area in between the toes. Contact your doctor
immediately if you discover any sores, redness, cuts, blisters, or
- Wash your feet every day in warm water with mild soap.
Hot water and harsh soaps can damage your skin. Check the water
temperature with your fingers or elbow before putting your feet in because
your diabetes may make it difficult to sense water temperature with your
- Dry your feet thoroughly and pat dry gently. Infections
tend to develop in moist areas, so make sure you dry the area between your
- If the skin on your feet feels rough or dry, use lotion
or oil. Do not use lotion between your toes.
Healthy Foot Habits
Adherence to good foot care habits will go a long way toward keeping your
- Antiseptic solutions can burn your skin—so never use
them on your feet without doctor supervision.
- Never use a heating pad, hot water bottle, or electric
blanket on your feet.
- Avoid walking barefoot on hot pavement or sandy
- Protect your feet from heat and cold.
- Never attempt to remove
corns, calluses, warts, or other foot lesions yourself. Don’t use chemical wart
removers, razor blades, corn plasters, or liquid corn or callus removers.
See your doctor or podiatrist.
It is possible for people with diabetes to perform routine toenail care, but
visual difficulty, nerve problems, or circulatory changes in the legs or feet
can make this unsafe.
If you do trim your toenails properly, you will avoid getting an ulcer or
foot sore. Please consult with your health care provider to see if it is safe
for you to perform routine toenail care and ask him/her to show you the correct
way. Here are a few tips:
- Trim your toenails after washing your feet, when your
nails are soft.
- Cut straight across rather than in a curved fashion to
help prevent ingrown toenails. Don’t cut into the corners. Use an emery
board to smooth the edges.
- Be careful not to cut toenails too short.
- Have your toenails trimmed by a foot doctor or another
health care provider if you can’t see well, or if your nails are thick or
Footwear: Shoes and
If you have neuropathy, or nerve damage that has affected foot sensitivity,
you may overlook cuts or bumps. You can help protect your feet by wearing shoes
at all times.
- Choose comfortable, well-fitting shoes with plenty of
room, especially in the toe box. Never buy tight shoes hoping they will
- Do not wear shoes made out of plastic or other
materials that do not breathe. Choose leather, canvas, or suede.
- Avoid thong sandals, flip flops, pointed-toe and
open-toe shoes, and very high heels.
- Wear shoes that can be adjusted with laces, buckles, or
- Inspect the inside of your shoes every day, looking for
tears or bumps that may cause pressure or irritation.
- If you have nerve damage, give your feet a break or
change shoes after five hours to change the pressure points on different
areas of your feet.
- If you experience repeated problems with your feet, ask
your doctor if special shoes would help.
- Socks can provide an extra layer of soft protection
between your foot and your shoe.
- Wear clean, dry socks, or non-binding pantyhose. Avoid
socks or hosiery with seams that can cause additional pressure points or
are too tight on the leg.
- Wear socks to bed if your feet are cold.
Signs and Symptoms
of Foot Problems
It is important to recognize early warning signs of foot problems, such as:
- burning, tingling, or painful feet
- loss of sensation of heat, cold, or touch
- changes in color or shape of your feet
- loss of hair on the toes, feet, and lower legs
- thickening and color change (yellow) of the toenails
- onset of blisters, sores, ulcers, infected corns, or
If you have any of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately. Delay
may result in serious health complications.
. Following the tips above can help you to avoid foot problems. As stated above, high blood sugar levels can
over time cause nerve damage and circulation problems that damage your
feet. Left unnoticed or untreated,
sores, ingrown toenails, and other problems can lead to infection.
Infections that do not heal can cause skin and tissue to die (gangrene). The
dead tissue turns black. Treatment can involve surgery to remove a toe, foot,
or part of a leg (amputation).
Visiting the Doctor
A doctor should examine your feet at every visit and do a thorough foot exam
once a year. If you have a history of
foot problems, you should be checked more often. Your health care provider should
also give you information on foot care and answer all your questions. Report
any corns, calluses, sores, cuts, bruises, infections, or foot pain.
If necessary, your doctor can recommend a podiatrist who specializes in
diabetic foot care or give you information about special shoes that may help.
Remember: Diabetes-related foot problems can worsen very quickly and are
difficult to treat, so it is important to seek prompt medical attention.
Medically Reviewed by:
Jul 25, 2012
Published By: Healthline Networks, Inc.