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Diabetic Foot Care

Diabetic Foot Care Overview

Diabetes mellitus (DM) represents several diseases in which high blood glucose levels over time can damage the nerves, kidneys, eyes, and blood vessels. Diabetes can also decrease the body's ability to fight infection. When diabetes is not well controlled, damage to the organs and impairment of the immune system is likely. Foot problems commonly develop in people with diabetes and can quickly become serious.

  • With damage to the nervous system, a person with diabetes may not be able to feel his or her feet properly. Normal sweat secretion and oil production that lubricates the skin of the foot is impaired. These factors together can lead to abnormal pressure on the skin, bones, and joints of the foot during walking and can lead to breakdown of the skin of the foot. Sores may develop.
  • Damage to blood vessels and impairment of the immune system from diabetes make it difficult to heal these wounds. Bacterial infection of the skin, connective tissues, muscles, and bones can then occur. These infections can develop into gangrene. Because of the poor blood flow, antibiotics cannot get to the site of the infection easily. Often, the only treatment for this is amputation of the foot or leg. If the infection spreads to the bloodstream, this process can be life-threatening.
  • People with diabetes must be fully aware of how to prevent foot problems before they occur, to recognize problems early, and to seek the right treatment when problems do occur. Although treatment for diabetic foot problems has improved, prevention - including good control of blood sugar level - remains the best way to prevent diabetic complications.
    • People with diabetes should learn how to examine their own feet and how to recognize the early signs and symptoms of diabetic foot problems.
    • They should also learn what is reasonable to manage routine at home foot care, how to recognize when to call the doctor, and how to recognize when a problem has become serious enough to seek emergency treatment.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/29/2014

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Diabetic Foot Care - Treatment

What treatment was used for your diabetic foot care?

Foot pain

Treating Diabetic Foot Problems

Foot problems in people with diabetes are usually treated by keeping blood sugar levels in a target blood sugar range and by using medicine, surgery, and other types of treatment.

When foot problems develop, those problems need prompt treatment so that serious complications don't develop. Even problems that seem minor - like calluses, blisters, cracked or peeling skin, and athlete's foot - need to be evaluated by a doctor. These problems frequently occur as a result of reduced sensitivity in the feet and may precede more serious infections or foot ulcers if the cause (poorly fitted shoes, excessive weight-bearing, or dry skin) isn't identified and corrected.

After a foot ulcer has formed, it will not heal as long as weight-bearing on the area continues. Unless your foot ulcer is infected, your doctor may put a cast on your leg to help the ulcer heal. Keeping your weight off your injured foot is very important. Even when you are at home, be careful to stay off that foot. Cushioned shoes, orthotic inserts, support with a cane or crutches, and - in extreme cases - a wheelchair and bed rest may be used to reduce weight and pressure on the feet. Foot infections need to be treated with antibiotics.


Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Diabetic Foot Infections »

Foot infections are the most common problems in persons with diabetes.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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