Diabetes and footcare

For diabetics, good footcare is very important, as foot-related complications are common for those  who suffer from the condition.  Foot ulcers for example, which affect as many as 1 out of 10 people with diabetes, can all too easily develop from blisters and small wounds, resulting in (no exaggeration!) the threat of amputation. Even small ulcers on the foot can represent a serious risk: they may heal extremely slowly and need rigorous treatment to cure.

Why is foot care important?

The presence of high blood glucose levels over a long period of time may result in a condition called diabetic neuropathy (damage to the nerves) or loss of circulation in the extremities of the body.  If the nerves in the feet or legs are damaged, the feet can lose sensation and become numb. In fact, it is relatively common for people with diabetes to not feel foot problems until they have become serious – so it’s essential to have regular foot examinations.

Top tips for healthy feet

  • Have a quality foot check by an appropriately trained person at least once a year.
  • After the foot check, ask what your risk is of developing foot problems.
  • If you are at increased risk of foot problems, make sure you have been referred to a foot protection service or specialist podiatrist for expert advice.
  • Check your feet every day - look for any signs of redness, pain, build-up of hard skin or changes in the shape of your feet.  
  • Be aware of any loss of feeling in your feet because you may not feel it if you hurt your feet.
  • Ask someone at home to monitor the feeling in your feet by doing the quick, easy Touch-the-toes-test.  Remember that this is not a substitute for an annual foot review.
  • Look after your toenails.
  • Do not use corn-removing plasters or blades as these can damage healthy skin.
  • Use moisturising cream every day and wear well-fitting shoes that protect and support your feet.
  • Always examine the inside of your shoes for sharp objects or stones before putting them on and replace ruffled innersole linings.
  • Garters and stockings or socks with elastic tops should also be avoided because they may restrict the circulation.
  • Know who to call at the first sign of any new foot problem.

Steps you can take to prevent problems: 

  • If you smoke, get support to help you stop because smoking affects blood circulation and so increases your risk of developing serious foot problems.
  • Eat a healthy diet that is low in saturated fat, sugar and salt, and high in fruit and vegetables.
  • Make sure you attend your annual foot check.
  • Make sure that your socks and shoes are comfortable and fit well.
  • If you are able to, take regular physical activity, for example a brisk walk each day.
  • Contact your GP or diabetes team if you have any concerns about your feet - don’t wait until your annual foot review.