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Diabetes Foot Problems


By Kathy Sinkin, RN, CDE

People with diabetes are often told to pay close attention to their feet – and for good reason. Having diabetes doesn’t make it more likely that you’ll injure your feet in the first place. However, having certain diabetic complications can raise the risk of minor foot problems becoming major foot problems if not treated promptly.

One of those complications is peripheral neuropathy, or damage to the nerves in the feet and lower legs. Peripheral neuropathy can cause a loss of sensation in the feet, meaning that you might not feel heat, cold and/or pain.

Another complication of diabetes that raises the risk of foot problems is reduced blood circulation to the feet. Wounds then are slower to heal and have more time to become infected.

The good news is that many foot problems are avoidable if you conscientiously control your blood sugar and blood pressure. Wear well -fitted shoes and preferably white cotton socks at all times, and check inside your shoes for foreign objects before putting shoes on. White cotton socks will absorb any moisture. Also, the best time to buy shoes is at the end of the day when your feet are a little larger due to swelling. Check the tops and bottoms of your feet every day. Since it can be difficult to see the entire bottom of your feet (unless of course you’re a gold medal gymnast), use a hand held mirror. After you bathe, sit on the edge of your bed and move the mirror across the bottom of your feet so that you don’t miss a spot. Look or feel for any signs of rubbing (redness), injury or infection. You can also apply lotion to your feet if they are dry. Apply lotion to the top and bottom of your feet but avoid the area between the toes since that is a dark, moisture rich area, conducive to fungus growth! Make certain that you dry between your toes! Cut your toenails straight across, and file any rough edges so that you avoid ingrown toenails. If you see a podiatrist regularly (foot doctor), let the doctor cut your nails.

If you develop a foot problem, take care of it immediately and then check daily to see if any wounds are healing. Don’t wear shoes or socks that rub or bother your feet in any way. Call your diabetes care provider promptly if small wounds do not heal quickly.

Kathy Sinkin is a Registered Nurse and Certified Diabetes Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at


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