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Drawing of a foot and ankle showing bones, blood vessels, and nerves inside. A bone, a blood vessel, and a nerve are labeled.
Keep your feet and skin healthy

What are diabetes problems?

Too much glucose in the blood for a long time can cause diabetes problems. This high blood glucose, also called blood sugar, can damage many parts of the body, such as the heart, blood vessels, eyes, and kidneys. Heart and blood vessel disease can lead to heart attacks and strokes. You can do a lot to prevent or slow down diabetes problems.

This information is about feet and skin problems caused by diabetes. You will learn the things you can do each day and during each year to stay healthy and prevent diabetes problems.

Drawing of a foot and ankle showing bones, blood vessels, and nerves inside. A bone, a blood vessel, and a nerve are labeled.Drawing of a foot and ankle with a label pointing to the skin.
High blood glucose can cause feet and skin problems.
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How can diabetes hurt my feet?

High blood glucose from diabetes causes two problems that can hurt your feet:

These two problems can work together to cause a foot problem.
Drawing of a man working in a garden. He is standing with his left foot on the base of a shovel and digging in the dirt.
Make sure you wear shoes that fit well.

For example, you get a blister from shoes that do not fit. You do not feel the pain from the blister because you have nerve damage in your foot. Next, the blister gets infected. If blood glucose is high, the extra glucose feeds the germs. Germs grow and the infection gets worse. Poor blood flow to your legs and feet can slow down healing. Once in a while a bad infection never heals. The infection might cause gangrene. If a person has gangrene, the skin and tissue around the sore die. The area becomes black and smelly.

To keep gangrene from spreading, a doctor may have to do surgery to cut off a toe, foot, or part of a leg. Cutting off a body part is called an amputation.
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What can I do to take care of my feet?

Drawing of a woman dressed in a bathrobe who is sitting in a chair and checking the bottom of her left foot.
Look at your feet every day to check for problems.

Drawing of a nail clipper and an emery board.

Drawing showing two feet clad in slippers
Always wear slippers or shoes to protect your feet.

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How can my doctor help me take care of my feet?

Drawing of a doctor talking with a male patient in an exam room. The doctor is standing. The male patient is dressed in an exam gown and has taken off his shoes and socks. The patient is sitting on an exam table.
Take off your shoes and socks so your doctor will check your feet.

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What are common diabetes foot problems?

Anyone can have corns, blisters, and other foot problems. If you have diabetes and your blood glucose stays high, these foot problems can lead to infections.


Drawing of a foot with arrows pointing to a corn and a callus.

Corns and calluses are thick layers of skin caused by too much rubbing or pressure on the same spot. Corns and calluses can become infected.

Drawing of a foot with an arrow pointing to a blister.

Blisters can form if shoes always rub the same spot. Wearing shoes that do not fit or wearing shoes without socks can cause blisters. Blisters can become infected.

Foot with an ingrown toenail.

Ingrown toenails happen when an edge of the nail grows into the skin. The skin can get red and infected. Ingrown toenails can happen if you cut into the corners of your toenails when you trim them. You can also get an ingrown toenail if your shoes are too tight. If toenail edges are sharp, smooth them with an emery board.

Drawing of a foot with an arrow pointing to a bunion.

A bunion forms when your big toe slants toward the small toes and the place between the bones near the base of your big toe grows big. This spot can get red, sore, and infected. Bunions can form on one or both feet. Pointed shoes may cause bunions. Bunions often run in the family. Surgery can remove bunions.

Drawing of the bottom of a foot with an arrow pointing to plantar warts.

Plantar warts are caused by a virus. The warts usually form on the bottoms of the feet.

Drawing of a foot with an arrow pointing to a hammertoe.

Hammertoes form when a foot muscle gets weak. Diabetic nerve damage may cause the weakness. The weakened muscle makes the tendons in the foot shorter and makes the toes curl under the feet. You may get sores on the bottoms of your feet and on the tops of your toes. The feet can change their shape. Hammertoes can cause problems with walking and finding shoes that fit well. Hammertoes can run in the family. Wearing shoes that are too short can also cause hammertoes.

Drawing of the bottom of a foot with an arrow pointing to dry and cracked skin.

Dry and cracked skin can happen because the nerves in your legs and feet do not get the message to keep your skin soft and moist. Dry skin can become cracked. Cracks allow germs to enter and cause infection. If your blood glucose is high, it feeds the germs and makes the infection worse.

Drawing of the bottom of a foot with an arrow pointing to athlete’s foot.

Athlete’s foot is a fungus that causes itchiness, redness, and cracking of the skin. The cracks between the toes allow germs to get under the skin and cause infection. If your blood glucose is high, it feeds the germs and makes the infection worse. The infection can spread to the toenails and make them thick, yellow, and hard to cut.

Tell your doctor about any foot problem as soon as you see it.
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How can special shoes help my feet?

Special shoes can be made to fit softly around your sore feet or feet that have changed shape. These special shoes help protect your feet. Medicare and other health insurance programs may pay for special shoes. Talk with your doctor about how and where to get them.
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How can diabetes hurt my skin?

Diabetes can hurt your skin in two ways:

Drawing of a woman standing in front of a kitchen counter and drinking a glass of water.
Drinking fluids helps keep your skin moist and healthy.

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What can I do to take care of my skin?

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Copyright © 2007 Diabetes Wellness Clinic of America. All rights reserved.