Symptoms and Signs of Diabetic Foot Problems

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 9/13/2021

Doctor's Notes on Diabetic Foot Problems

Diabetic foot care is a condition that helps control and/or prevent the problems encountered with their feet. Common signs and symptoms in diabetics that suggest they need foot care include persistent pain, redness, swelling, limping, and warmth of the feet. More serious signs and symptoms include numbness so injuries to the feet are not detected, skin breaks or wounds that don't heal, fevers, pus drainage, and/or red streaks moving up the leg from the foot.

The cause or need for foot care in diabetics is due to poorly fitting footwear, nerve damage from the disease, poor circulation due to diabetes, trauma (often undetected because of prior nerve damage), infections (bacterial and fungal), and smoking (decreases circulation).

What Are the Treatments for Diabetic Foot Problems?

People with diabetes often get diverse foot problems that need individual treatments:

  • Athlete's foot: antifungal creams or oral antifungals
  • Dry skin: moisturizing soaps and lotions
  • Fungal toenails: antifungal creams or oral antifungals; nail removal
  • Calluses and/or corns: pumice stone removal of hard tissue buildup (Do not cut these tissues.)
  • Blisters: antibacterial cream and soft bandages (Do not pop blisters.)
  • Bunions: felt or foam padding; may need surgery
  • Diabetic ulcers: Alleviate pressure on the wound, clean daily, and apply a moist dressing. Debridement, antibiotics, and/or surgery may be needed.
  • Hammertoes: toe splints, corrective shoes; surgery
  • Ingrown toenails: Avoid any tight-fitting shoes and keep toenails trimmed. Some may require surgical removal of parts of the nail.
  • Plantar warts: medication topically (salicylic acid), cryotherapy, laser, minor surgery


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.