Diabetes and Your Feet

Diabetes has an important link with your feet and can be the first sign of change if any complications are occurring. In most cases, if your blood glucose levels are well controlled then no complications are usually seen. However, if diabetes is uncontrolled the common following risk factors will occur:


Uncontrolled diabetes can affect your vascular system in 2 major ways:

  1. Decrease the elasticity (Stiffness) of your arteries meaning less blood will get from your heart to your feet.
  2. Increase the arterial wall thickness making it harder for blood to get from your vessels to your skin and muscles.

This can further cause complications with skin integrity, healing time, ulceration and in worst case, amputation. Due to a lack of blood to the feet, if wounds occur they may not be able to heal due to inadequate blood supply which can lead to infection and then amputation. Additionally, swelling, coldness, dry skin and cramps can also occur in the lower leg due to a lack of nutrients being supplied to the skin and muscles.


High sugar levels in blood are toxic to nerves in your body. The feet and hands are usually the first sites to show symptoms. Symptoms can include numbness, pins and needles and burning sensations. If the toxicity is present for a long duration of time, all feeling in your feet can be lost causing major complications. Once nerve damage occurs in feet, it will rarely improve. Nerve damage can be very dangerous as no feeling in your feet makes simple tasks such as fitting a shoe, feeling temperature and walking much more difficult. Nerve damage can also affect your balance.

Diabetes can have many other complications in your feet including muscles wastage, biomechanical changes and structural deformities.

It is important for people diagnosed with diabetes to have an annual check up with their podiatrist to have their circulation and nerve function tested. If any complications are noted you may be required to have more frequent appointments.

Handy Tips

  • Check feet daily for any abnormalities. Use a mirror if you find it difficult to look underneath
  • Wash your feet thoroughly and be sure to dry between your toes
  • Apply cream to the tops and bottom of your feet (avoid putting between toes)
  • Wear clean socks daily and try to avoid seams and tight elastic around the ankles
  • Wear appropriate footwear as educated by your podiatrist
  • Check your footwear for any foreign objects before putting on
  • Wear enclosed footwear to protect feet at all times – especially when outside
  • Protect your feet from heat and cold
  • Cut nails and remove corns and calluses regularly with the help of your podiatrist
  • Avoid over the counter treatments (corn pads, gel pads etc.) without consulting your podiatrist first
  • Ensure your blood glucose levels are controlled as directed by your GP and Diabetes Team.

Pro Podiatry SA

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