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Serious foot problems and diabetes

A serious foot problem is when damage to your foot means it needs emergency attention. Having diabetes means that you’re more at risk of serious foot problems, and these can lead to amputation.

This is more likely to happen if you’ve been told your level of risk for getting foot problems is high. This means that a minor problem with your feet could quickly become something very serious. 

If you’re high risk, and see a change or problem with your feet, you need to know what to do to stop it getting worse.

14 signs of a serious foot problem

It’s good to take time out to sit down and have a proper look at your feet every day. If you notice any changes or that you feel unwell you should do something about it straight away.

Someone with diabetes is 20 times more likely to experience an amputation.

If you spot any of the following changes, you need to see your GP:

  • tingling sensation or pins and needles (like numbness)
  • pain (burning)
  • a dull ache
  • shiny, smooth skin on your feet
  • hair loss on your legs and feet
  • loss of feeling in your feet or legs
  • swollen feet
  • your feet don't sweat
  • wounds or sores that don’t heal
  • cramp in your calves when resting or walking.

And if you notice any of these changes, see your local foot team urgently:

  • changes in the colour and shape of your feet 
  • cold or hot feet
  • blisters and cuts that you can see but don’t feel.
  • foul smell coming from an open wound


What to do if you notice a problem

If you see something wrong, it’s really important to:

  • take the weight off your foot
  • contact your GP or foot protection team immediately
  • go to your nearest out-of-hours healthcare service if your GP or foot protection team aren’t available.

It’s really important to try and sort it out before it gets any worse - no matter how small the change. A serious foot problem for some people can lead to amputation very quickly.

You may be looked after by many different healthcare professionals, who will tell you what to do next. The important thing to remember is to keep your weight off your foot. 

What the foot specialists will do

They’ll tell you your level of risk if you don't know already. And together, you’ll agree a personalised care plan. This may involve treatment, advice about the best footwear and how to look after your feet.

You’ll see them regularly and this will be arranged through your local footcare service.

You’ll get these appointments along with your annual diabetes foot check. It’s best to go to all of them. That way, you’ll get the best type of professional foot care and keep your feet healthy.


If you have diabetes then you are more likely to develop certain skin problems, such as rare blisters which can show up on your feet and legs. You can also get them on your hands and arms, but this is less common.These are sometimes known as diabetic blisters – but  unlike the blisters that develop after a burn, these blisters are not painful.  

Causes of blisters

The cause isn’t clear. However, you’re more likely to develop these blisters if your blood sugar levels are high. If you have neuropathy, which is damage to the nerves, your body’s reduced sensitivity can also make you more likely to develop these lesions.

Treatment required

Typically, these blisters will heal naturally on their own. This can take up to five weeks and when they heal they don’t leave any scarring. Avoid puncturing the blisters yourself. If a blister is big enough that it needs to be drained, then you should speak to your GP.

Make sure you contact your doctor if you spot any red skin around your blisters. Whilst the blisters do clear up by themselves, your GP can help you avoid the risk of an infection. 

You can also speak to your healthcare team to check if you need to take any additional steps to help you manage your diabetes

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