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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Diabetes & feet

Mate huka me waewae

If you have diabetes, it's important to look after your feet.


If you discover any problems with your feet, contact your podiatrist or general practice team immediately. If they aren't available, go to your nearest after-hours clinic. Remember, any delay in getting advice or treatment when you have a problem can lead to serious problems.

An older woman with swollen feet putting on shoesDiabetes can damage the nerves (diabetic neuropathy) and blood vessels supplying your feet. This can affect the feeling in your feet (peripheral neuropathy) and circulation in your feet (ischaemia).

These changes can lead to problems with your feet such as infections and ulcers.

Severe foot disease can lead to you losing toes or even your whole foot (amputation).

Reducing your risk of diabetic foot problems

You can reduce your risk of diabetic foot problems by:

You have a low risk of diabetic foot problems if your feet are in good condition.

You have a medium or high risk of diabetic foot problems if:

Symptoms of diabetic foot problems

Early damage may not cause any symptoms. A foot check with your general practice team or podiatrist will pick up early signs of damage.

You may get pins and needles, burning or numbness in your feet.

You may also get pain in your feet or legs.

Treating diabetic foot problems

Looking after your feet is the most important thing in treating diabetic foot problems.

Good control of your diabetes will help your feet heal.

If you get an infection in your feet, you'll need quick treatment with antibiotics.

Infected foot ulcers need to be treated with dressings and antibiotics.

Your doctor may prescribe pain relief medication to treat pain in your feet.

Self‑care for diabetic foot problems

Look after your feet. For more information, see Self-care for your feet.

Have good control of your diabetes.

Do not smoke.

Eat well and be physically active.

See your general practice team or podiatrist for a foot check at least once a year.

Get checked for high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as these can affect the blood flow to your feet.

Getting help for diabetic foot problems

The following health care professionals can help:

If you have high-risk feet, you may be able to see a podiatrist without needing to pay.

On the next page: Self‑care for your feet

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed November 2022.


Page reference: 84656

Review key: HIDIA-21832