Key Points about Diabetic Foot

  • Symptoms of diabetic foot include color or temperature changes, leg pain, swelling in the foot or ankle, open sores that are not healing, or toenails that are infected with fungus.
  • The most common risk factors for developing diabetic foot include having peripheral vascular disease or neuropathy.


People with uncontrolled diabetes are at risk of developing diabetic foot issues.

Types of foot issues caused by diabetes include:

  • Diabetic neuropathy. People with uncontrolled diabetes are likely to develop foot or ankle nerve damage. If this occurs, you will not feel pain, heat, or cold sensations. In some cases, the foot muscles will not work properly, which causes issues with foot alignment.
  • Peripheral vascular disease. Ulcers may develop or tissue death may occur if your blood is not flowing correctly through the legs and into the feet.

Diabetic foot causes

Most diabetic foot issues are caused by weak leg and foot circulation, high blood sugar, nerve damage, or wounded feet.

Diabetic foot symptoms

Signs or symptoms of diabetic foot issues include:

  • Foot skin color or temperature changes.
  • Leg pain.
  • Foot or ankle swelling.
  • Slowly healing open sores on one or both of your feet.
  • Corns or calluses.
  • Toenails that are infected with fungus.
  • Ingrown toenails.
  • Cracked skin around the heel.

Diabetic foot complications

If left untreated, diabetic foot can lead to severe complications, including:

  • Bone and skin infections that may require hospitalization.
  • A skin infection called an abscess.
  • In severe cases where diabetic foot is not caught and treated early, the foot may need to be amputated.
  • Blood flow to the toes, which causes tissue to die.

Diabetic foot risk factors

There are a variety of factors that increase your risk of developing a diabetic foot ulcer, including:

  • Neuropathy or diabetic neuropathy.
  • Peripheral vascular disease.
  • Smoking.
  • Poor blood sugar control.
  • Peripheral vascular disease.
  • Prior foot ulcers or amputations.

Diabetic foot prevention

In many cases, diabetic foot can be prevented by following these guidelines:

  • Properly monitor and control the body’s blood sugar.
  • Perform self-examinations.
  • Properly care for your feet, washing them daily.
  • Avoid hot tubs or harsh chemicals or heating pads.
  • Wear properly fitting shoes.
  • Trim nails regularly and cut them straight across.

If you are at high risk of developing an ulcer, work with your doctor to develop a follow-up treatment schedule.

Diabetic foot diagnosis

Your doctor can diagnose diabetic foot. During a clinic visit, your doctor will evaluate your symptoms, take a full medical history, and inspect your foot. Your doctor will also feel your foot pulse to determine how effectively the blood is flowing in your extremities.

Your doctor will likely order diagnostic testing, such as:

  • X-ray.
  • MRI scan.
  • Blood tests.

Diabetic foot treatment

Treating diabetic foot is a complicated process. The goal of treatment is to aid in healing as quickly as possible to prevent infection.

Your doctor may recommend any of the following treatments alone or in combination with another therapy:

  • Medications to manage blood sugar.
  • Antimicrobial medications.
  • Topical dressings.
  • Systemic antibiotics.

While most cases of diabetic foot can be treated without surgery, if conservative treatments fail and the site becomes infected, you may need surgery. Your doctor will determine the most appropriate surgery for your case, for example, shaving bone that is causing deformities such as hammertoes or bunions.

When to Seek Care

If you have diabetes and notice an ulcer, seek care immediately. Early intervention is crucial to treat diabetic foot and prevent infection and amputation successfully.

Next Steps

You must seek immediate treatment for diabetic foot. Also, once diagnosed, carefully follow your doctor’s treatment and care instructions.

The time it takes to heal from diabetic foot varies depending upon wound size, location, swelling, circulation, blood sugar levels, and the amount of pressure on the wound. Some patients will heal as soon as a couple of weeks, while others may require a few months.

If your symptoms worsen at any point during your recovery, contact your doctor right away to determine the next steps.

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