People with diabetes are much more likely to develop problems with their feet. This is because having high blood sugars can damage the feeling in your feet and your blood circulation. If you don’t get foot problems treated, they can cause foot ulcers and infections and, at worst, can lead to amputation.
But most amputations can be prevented – 4 out of 5 in fact. If you take good care of your feet and check them regularly, you can reduce your risk of developing foot problems.
Some key things to remember:
- Check your feet every day. Check for any changes in how they look or feel.
- See a change, see a doctor! If you notice anything different about your feet, it’s important you tell a healthcare professional quickly.
- Get an annual foot check from a trained professional.
- Know your risk. Make sure you discuss and understand your level of foot risk at your annual foot check.
Need some help checking your feet? Watch our video to learn how.
Prevent foot problems
Your feet are important, especially when you have diabetes. If you manage your diabetes well, most foot problems can be prevented. You can dramatically reduce your chances of foot problems by taking good care of your feet.
Take these simple steps to healthy feet:
- Go to your foot check – a trained professional should check your bare feet once a year.
- Know how your feet are doing – you should be told if you’re at high risk of developing foot problems or if you need to see a specialist for expert foot advice.
- Look at your feet every day – whether it’s when you’re putting your socks on or just before bed. You’re looking for any changes in how they look or feel.
- If you lose feeling in your feet, be extra careful – you may not realise if you’ve hurt yourself. Try not to go barefoot and don’t sit too close to radiators or heaters.
- Watch out cutting your nails – don’t cut down the side of your nails, to avoid ingrowing toenails.
- Don’t use corn-removing plasters or blades – these can damage your skin.
- Make sure your socks and shoes fit – if your shoes are too tight, too loose or rub, then don’t wear them.
- Take control of your diabetes – easier said than done. But lowering high amounts of sugar in your blood will help prevent damage to your feet and can stop things getting worse.
- Ask for help to stop smoking – smoking makes it harder for blood to travel around your body (including to your feet), so this puts you even more at risk of amputation. Ask your healthcare team for help to stop smoking.
Changes to look out for
You’re looking for any changes in the look or feel of your feet. Checking your feet every day will help spot any problems quickly. If you can’t check your own feet, ask someone to help.
Some changes to look out for include:
- tingling sensation or pins and needles
- pain (burning)
- less sweaty feet
- changes in the colour and shape of your feet
- blisters and cuts that you can see but don’t feel
- loss of feeling in your feet or legs
- swollen feet
- cramp in your calves (when resting or when walking)
- hair loss on your legs and feet
- cold, pale feet
- wounds or sores that don’t heal
- shiny, smooth skin on your feet.
If you spot any of these changes, speak to your doctor immediately. You might be having something called a foot attack. This is an injury to the foot (or feet) of someone with diabetes who has reduced feeling or reduced blood circulation to their feet.
It’s important that any change, however small, is seen by a healthcare professional as soon as possible. They can then refer you to another service if needed. Catching a problem early means it’s much less likely to result in an amputation.