Diabetes and caring for your feet

When you have diabetes, foot care is very important.

How can diabetes affect my feet?

Too much glucose in your blood can damage the nerves and blood vessels in your feet. This can result in a loss of sensation, that is, you may not feel a foot injury, such as a blister or a cut. If unnoticed or untreated, a sore can quickly become infected and potentially lead to serious complications.

What are some common foot problems?

Some common foot problems that can lead to pain or infections include:

  • Corns and calluses – a thick layer of skin.
  • Blisters – areas of the skin that are raised and filled with fluid.
  • Ingrown toenails – edges of the toenails grow into your skin.
  • Bunions – a bump at the outside edge of your big toe.
  • Plantar warts – small, flesh-coloured growths on the bottom of your feet.
  • Hammertoe – toes that curl under your feet.
  • Dry and cracked skin – rough, scaly, and flaking skin.
  • Athlete’s foot – a fungus that causes itching, burning, redness and cracking of your skin.
  • Fungal function – toenails appear yellow, green, brown, or black and are thick and hard to cut.

What can I do to care for my feet and prevent problems?

There are many things you can do to keep your feet healthy, such as:

  1. Take care of your diabetes and keep your blood glucose levels within the normal range.
  2. Ask your local health care provider about diabetic foot screening. 
  3. Check your feet daily for cuts, cracks, ingrown toenails, blisters, etc.
  4. Wash your feet daily and dry them carefully, especially between the toes.
  5. Keep your skin soft and smooth by applying cream or lotion to your heels and soles daily, but not between the toes.
  6. When needed, trim your toenails straight across, but not too short. 
  7. Change your socks daily and wear good supportive shoes.
  8. Elevate your feet when you are sitting.
  9. Wiggle your toes and move your ankles up and down for a few minutes.
  10. Exercise regularly.
  11. See a foot care specialist if you need advice or treatment, including orthotics.

What are some things I shouldn’t do when caring for my feet?

Keeping good care of your feet is important, some things you should not do include:

  • Don’t wear tight shoes, socks, knee-highs; or high heels, pointed-toe shoes or sandals.
  • Don’t put hot water bottles or heating pads on your feet.
  • Don’t walk barefoot inside or outside.
  • Don’t sit or cross your legs for long periods of time.
  • Don’t use over-the-counter medications to treat corns and warts.
  • Don’t wear over-the-counter insoles as they can cause blisters.
  • Don’t have pedicures by non-health care professionals.
  • Don’t smoke.

When should I seek medical treatment for my feet?

If you have any signs of infection such as pain, redness, swelling or oozing pus, see your family physician / nurse practitioner right away or go to your nearest emergency department.

Foot care: A step toward good health (Diabetes Canada) [PDF | 2.53 MB]. 

Published date: 
October 22, 2021
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