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HealthInfo Canterbury

Diabetes & feet

An older woman with swollen feet putting on shoesIf you have diabetes it is important to look after your feet.

Diabetes 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).

You are low‑risk for diabetic foot problems if your feet are in good condition.

You are medium‑ or high‑risk for diabetic foot problems if:

Symptoms of diabetic feet

Early damage may not cause any symptoms. A foot check with your practice nurse, GP, 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 feet

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

Good control of your diabetes will help your feet heal.

Infection in your feet will need quick treatment with antibiotics.

Manage infected foot ulcers with dressings and antibiotics.

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

Self‑care for diabetic feet

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

Have good control of your diabetes.

Don’t smoke.

Eat well and be physically active.

See your practice nurse, GP or podiatrist for a foot check at least once a year.

Find out if you have low‑, medium‑ or high-risk feet.

If you have medium‑ or high‑risk feet, you will need to see a podiatrist regularly. They provide foot care such as advice on toenail cutting.

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

Getting help for diabetic feet

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. Page created July 2019.

Page reference: 84656

Review key: HIDIF-84656