Diabetes 101: Know Your Feet


November 24, 2018

For individuals with diabetes, there are two conditions that can cause serious complications to their feet:  diabetic neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease.

Diabetic neuropathy is a condition where the nerves in the feet are damaged.  This means that a person may not feel changes in temperature, putting them at risk for burns and frost bite.  It also means a person also may not realize it if their foot is injured with a cut or wound. Unnoticed and untreated, even small injuries can quickly become infected, leading to serious complications. Peripheral vascular disease is a decrease in blood flow to the lower legs and feet causing prolonged healing of wounds and increased risk of ulcers. 

Northern Ontario has the highest rate of amputation, partly because of complications from diabetic foot ulcers. Amputation can be prevented through a combination of measures, including regular foot examinations, foot care education, proper footwear, glucose control, smoking cessation, and early detection and treatment of diabetic foot ulcers.

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, proper foot care can prevent serious complications from occurring. Foot problems can develop quickly – so be sure to check your feet every day. When examining your feet, be sure to look out for the following:

  • Blisters;

  • Breaks in the skin;

  • Bruises or changes in colour/temperature;

  • Redness/swelling;

  • Corns or calluses;

  • Ingrown toe nails;

  • Open sores that are not healing;

  • Pain in your legs/feet;

  • Changes in the shape of your foot or anything else that seems abnormal.

Visit your health care provider or a walk-in clinic if any of the above symptoms do not improve within a day or two.


How to Take Care of Your Feet

Taking care of your feet can prevent serious complications, such as ulcers, from occurring.  Here are some tips on how to manage your feet:

  • Wash your feet daily with warm water and mild soap. Test the water before putting your feet in.  Dry well-especially between the toes;

  • Keep your feet dry. Apply lotions as needed but do not apply between your toes;

  • Do not walk barefoot. Always wear close toed shoes or slippers;

  • Always wear socks or stockings;

  • Wear shoes that fit well and always check the inside of your shoes before you put them;

  • Stop smoking;

  • Make sure your doctor examines your feet at each visit;

  • If you require help caring for your feet, ask your health care provider for a referral to a foot care nurse or podiatrist as needed.

< back to articles