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Whittington Health NHSUCL

Feet

Overview

feetHealthy feet are very important for a good quality of life. We rely on them to do many things, like walking, shopping and travelling independently. Checking your feet daily can make a big difference.

  • Have a foot check at least once a year
  • Check your feet for cuts and sores daily
  • Moisturise your feet
  • Wear well fitting shoes.

Why do problems with the feet happen in diabetes?

Over time, high blood glucose levels can damage the small nerves and blood vessels of the feet.

This can lead to:

  • reduced blood supply to the feet
  • reduced sensation in the feet.

What are the most common problems?

  • Dry feet—more prone to breaks in the skin. The small nerves of the feet help to regulate sweating and keep the skin well hydrated. Feet may become dryer in diabetes.
  • Nicks and cuts going unnoticed. With time, people may notice reduced sensation in their feet. This means that small cuts might not be noticed unless they are specifically looked for.
  • Corns and calluses. Corns and calluses are areas of thickened skin. These develop where there is repeated pressure and are more common in diabetes.
  • Ulcers. Ulcers are areas where the outer skin has disappeared, leaving deeper skin layers uncovered. They are more common in diabetes.
  • Poorly healing cuts and infection. Small blood vessels and nerves play an important part in healing. If they are damaged by high blood glucose levels, the healing process may be slower.
  • Pain in the feet. Although the feet may be less sensitive in diabetes, they can also sometimes give pain signals when nothing has happened to cause pain.

Will I develop problems?

Foot ulcers are common in diabetes, affecting about 5 in 100 people at any one time. However, having diabetes does not mean you will develop an ulcer.

When ulcers occur, it is important to know that most foot ulcers heal successfully with professional help.

Drastic treatment such as amputations are very rarely needed. Half of people having an amputation have not had a foot check in the last year.

See also above: Prevention | Checks & tests | Complications | Treatment | Links