Diabetic Foot Care Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Diabetic Foot Problems

If you are diabetic, having an increased blood sugar level for a long time can lead to serious complications, including some foot problems.

  • Diabetic neuropathy
    Your nerves may be damaged due to uncontrolled diabetes. Having damaged nerves in your feet or legs may render you unable to feel cold, heat, or pain in the affected area. This loss of sensation in the affected region is called "sensory diabetic neuropathy." If you are unable to sense a cut or sore on your feet due to neuropathy, the cut tends to worsen, and an infection occurs in the area. The foot muscles may also not function properly as the nerves supplying these muscles are damaged. This would result in too much pressure on one part of the foot or misalignment of the foot.
  • Peripheral vascular disease
    The blood flow may also be affected due to diabetes. Blood supply causes a sore or a cut to take a longer time to heal. If you have an infection that is reluctant to heal due to poor blood supply, you might develop ulcers or gangrene.

Common foot problems that can occur because of diabetes:

Although anyone can develop the conditions mentioned below, people with diabetes are more susceptible to infection and serious complications that can occur because of these. Some of these complications may need an amputation.

  • Athlete's foot
    Athlete's foot occurs because of a fungus and is characterised by redness, itching, and cracking. The cracks in the skin can lead to the entry of germs inside them and give rise to an infection. Antifungal medications in the form of creams or pills can be used to treat this condition.
  • Fungal infection of nails
    Discolouration of nails may occur due to a fungal infection. The nails may become brittle, thick, opaque, or yellowish-brown in colour. They may even crumble or get separated from the nail bed. The growth of the fungus is facilitated by a dark, moist, and warm environment inside the shoes in the summers. Nail injury can also lead to the development of a fungal infection.
  • Calluses
    A callus refers to a build-up of hard skin, typically on the underside of the foot, that occurs due to an uneven distribution of weight or pressure. Calluses can also occur because of skin problems or poorly fitting shoes. Having some callous on your foot may be normal, so your doctor is the best person to ascertain whether a treatment is required or not.
  • Corns
    Corn refers to the development of hard skin near a bony prominence of a toe or in between toes. They may occur as a result of pressure developing because of the rubbing of shoes against your toes or lead to the development of friction in between the toes.
  • Blisters
    Blisters can occur because of repeated rubbing on the same spot of the foot. It can occur due to wearing ill-fitted shoes without socks leading to infection. It is important not to pop the blisters when treating them, as the skin covering the blisters prevents them from getting infected. Using soft, clean bandages to protect the area and antibacterial creams helps prevent infection.
  • Bunions
    When the big toe bends towards the second toe, a bunion is formed. The foot area where the big toe joins the foot often becomes red and callused. It may also become hardened and stick out. A bunion may be formed on a single foot or both feet.
  • Dry skin
    Dry skin is prone to cracking, which facilitates the entry of germs. The skin must be kept moist and soft by applying soaps and lotions. You can ask an expert doctor for recommendations on which product to use.
  • Diabetic ulcers
    A foot ulcer is characterised by a breach in the skin or a deep sore which can get infected. Foot ulcers can occur because of cuts or minor scrapes with prolonged healing time or because of rubbing from poorly fitted shoes. Seeking treatment for diabetic ulcers as soon as you spot them is important.
  • Hammertoes
    A hammertoe refers to a bent toe due to a weakened muscle that makes the toe tendons shorter, causing curling of the toe under the foot. Hammertoes can run in families and can lead to the formation of blisters and walking difficulties. They are treated with splints or corrective shoes. A surgery aimed at straightening the toes may be required in certain cases.
  • Ingrown toenails
    This condition occurs when the edges of the nails grow into your skin, leading to a build-up of pressure and pain along the edges of the nails. The nail edges may cut into the skin leading to redness, swelling, pain, infection, and drainage. Pressure on the shoes is the main cause of ingrown toenails. Other causes include crowding of the toes, improperly trimmed nails, and repeated injuries to the feet due to activities such as walking, running, or performing aerobics.
  • Plantar warts
    Plantar warts appear like a callus on the heel or ball of the foot. They may appear to be having small black holes or tiny pinpoints in the centre. Warts may grow singly or in clusters and are usually painful. Plantar warts usually occur because of viruses infecting the skin's outer layer on the soles of the feet. If you are not sure about having a callus or a plantar wart, you must consult a doctor and let him decide.

If you suffer from diabetes and experience any of the following problems, you must get an appointment with a doctor:

  • Discolouration of the skin
  • Change in the temperature of the skin
  • Swelling in the ankle or the foot
  • Leg pain
  • Slow-healing or draining open sores on the feet
  • Calluses or corns
  • Dry cracks around the heels
  • Unusual foot odour that stays
  • Skin and bone infections
    Infection can occur if a small wound or a cut complicates. This is more likely to occur if the blood vessels or nerve is damaged and if there are any problems with the immune system. Wounds previously treated with antibiotics are most susceptible to infections, some cases of which may require hospitalization.
  • Abscess
    Sometimes, an infection can invade the bone and create a pus pocket known as an abscess, whose common treatment option is drainage. Some tissue or bone may require removal.
  • Gangrene
    The blood vessels supplying your fingers or toes may be affected because of diabetes. If the blood supply is interrupted, the tissue might die. The condition needs urgent surgical care to remove the damaged tissue or oxygen supply.
  • Deformities
    The feet muscles may be weakened because of nerve damage which may give rise to foot disorders such as claw feet, hammertoes, prominent metatarsal heads, pes cavus, or a high arch that does not flatten if you put weight over it.
  • Charcot foot
    The foot bones may be weakened because of diabetes to the extent that they may break. If the nerve supplying the affected area is damaged, you may not even sense or realise this and keep on walking on broken feet; this may, over time, lead to deformation of the affected foot.
  • Amputation
    Diabetic people are most susceptible to getting a foot injury without sensing it if there are problems with blood supply or the nerves involved. A non-healing infection can lead to the formation of an abscess, while decreased blood flow may lead to the formation of gangrene. For such cases, amputation is the best management option.