5 Ways Diabetes Affects Your Foot Health

Feb 06, 2024
Foot care is a critical aspect of managing diabetes, which is closely connected to several preventable foot health complications. Learn how diabetes can affect your feet, and find out how to avoid diabetes-related foot problems. 

If you're living with diabetes, your primary concern is typically keeping an eye on your blood sugar levels. However, diabetes requires you to care for your entire body, including your feet. 

Diabetes can significantly compromise your foot health, leading to serious complications that, in severe cases, could cause you to lose your foot or a larger part of your lower extremity. 

In San Antonio and Kerrville, Texas, our expert team at South Texas Foot Surgeons, PA, specializes in preventing, managing, and treating the foot-related complications that people with diabetes frequently face.

Here, we discuss how diabetes can affect foot health, and explore the serious foot-related problems that are associated with the condition. 

Why should I be concerned about my feet if I have diabetes?

People with diabetes are more vulnerable to foot problems because the condition can damage nerves and reduce blood flow to your lower extremities. This can make it hard to heal from an injury or resist infection. 

As a result, what would be a relatively minor foot issue for someone without diabetes — such as a cut, scrape, ingrown toenail, or corn — can quickly become a major problem for someone with high blood sugar levels.

How can diabetes negatively affect my feet?

Diabetes triggers chronically high blood sugar levels, which — without effective management and control — can lead to a range of serious complications, particularly in your feet. Common complications include:

Neuropathy and loss of sensation

Diabetes can cause nerve damage, also known as neuropathy, particularly in your feet. This condition leads to a loss of sensation, making it harder to notice skin injuries like cuts or blisters. 

The loss of feeling is dangerous because a wound may go unnoticed until it leads to more severe complications. Examining your feet regularly is crucial, so you can spot any unfelt injuries early.

Poor circulation and slow healing

Diabetes often impairs blood circulation to the feet. This reduced blood flow means that any injuries or sores heal slowly. Slow healing increases the risk of infections and ulcers, as wounds remain open and vulnerable for extended periods. 

While a small cut or scrape might not concern most people, if you have diabetes, it's best to let a skilled podiatrist handle your wound care. Simple steps like keeping your feet warm and avoiding tight shoes can help improve your lower extremity circulation and reduce your risk of developing a slow-healing wound.

Unhealthy skin changes

The poor circulation induced by diabetes can rob the skin on your lower extremities of the oxygen and nutrients it needs to stay healthy. This can cause the skin on your feet to become chronically dry, tough, shiny, and prone to cracking — creating a high risk of infection. 

Moisturize regularly and avoid walking barefoot to help maintain healthy skin, prevent cracks, and reduce your risk of permanent skin damage.

Structural changes to the feet

Diabetes can change the shape of your feet, causing conditions like bunions or hammertoe. These conditions can, in turn, lead to pressure points that may result in skin injuries and open ulcers. Custom orthotics or appropriately fitted footwear can help relieve these pressure points and prevent complications.

Increased risk of infection

A weakened immune system is another side effect of diabetes, making it harder to fight off infections. This vulnerability means that even minor cuts can lead to severe infections. Keep your feet clean and dry, and treat cuts or scrapes promptly and appropriately to prevent infections.

Your partner in effective diabetic foot care

Taking care of your feet is a critical part of your diabetes management, and with the proper support and knowledge, you can avoid infections and complications. 

At South Texas Foot Surgeons, PA, preventing and managing diabetic foot complications is a walk in the park for our team. Call your nearest office in San Antonio or Kerrville, Texas, today, or click online to schedule an appointment with us anytime.