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Foot care for diabetics

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 3 minutes read
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People with diabetes have high blood sugar (glucose) levels that can cause damage to their feet. High blood sugar levels can damage nerves in your feet (peripheral neuropathy), making them less able to feel pain, cold, and heat. As a result, foot problems can go unnoticed. Therefore, complications are more likely due to a lack of prompt treatment. High blood sugar levels can also damage blood vessels, leading to plaque forming inside them (peripheral arterial disease). These narrowed blood vessels reduce blood flow to your feet. A reduced blood supply to your feet means they can’t heal as well as usual. Therefore, effective foot care is essential in diabetes.

Effective foot care is crucial in both types 1 and 2 diabetes. Foot problems include blisters, cuts, athlete’s foot, corns, calluses, dry skin, verrucas, in-grown toenails, and fungal nail infections. In extreme cases, the resulting complications can include bacterial infections, ulcers, gangrene, and even amputation.

Foot care tips

Listed below are some top tips to help you look after your feet:

  • Check your feet every day for any problems.
  • Wash your feet daily in warm but not hot water and dry them thoroughly.
  • Keep your toenails short.
  • Make sure you wear shoes that fit comfortably.
  • Avoid walking barefoot, even inside.
  • Attend your annual diabetes review with your doctor, including a check of your feet.

What to do if you experience foot problems

If you have diabetes and experience problems with your feet, you should promptly speak to your doctor or podiatrist. Do not try to treat the condition yourself without consulting your doctor or podiatrist first, as some over-the-counter products may not be suitable for you.

Is there anything to protect my feet?

Yes, plenty of products are available to help keep your feet healthy. There are specific socks designed for people with diabetes. Examples include Protect iT and Reflexa diabetic socks that help protect your feet. Moisturizing products such as Flexitol Heel Balm hydrate your skin, stopping your feet from becoming dry and cracked. There are also various diabetic insoles available to help cushion your feet.

Lifestyle advice

It is best to avoid smoking as it can worsen your circulatory problems. If you want to stop smoking, you should speak with your pharmacist.

Get your yearly diabetic eye screening, otherwise complications can lead to glaucoma.

Also it is important for your doctor to order yearly lab work to check your sugar levels, cholesterol, and kidney function. 

If you need dietary advice, you should consult your doctor about a referral to a dietician. Try to eat a healthy balanced diet and exercise regularly, as this can help lower your blood sugar levels. Feet-friendly exercises you could try include walking, cycling, and swimming.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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