Stop Diabetes® From Knocking You Off Your Feet

feetDid you know that April is Limb Loss Awareness Month?

People with diabetes can develop many different foot problems, and even seemingly simple ones can lead to serious complications. The reason? Many people with diabetes have artery disease, which reduces blood flow to the feet. Many also have nerve disease, called neuropathy, which reduces sensation, making it harder to tell when something’s wrong.

Together, these problems make it easy to get ulcers and infections that may lead to amputation. In fact, more than 60 percent of nontraumatic lower-limb amputations occur in people with diabetes.

The good news is that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionThis image is associated with an external link. (CDC), amputations have declined significantly among U.S. adults with diabetes in recent years. This is largely due to better foot care and overall diabetes management—proving that taking care of yourself and your feet can go a long way.

Most people can prevent serious foot troubles by following some simple steps. So here are the do’s and don’ts of foot care:

  • Keep your blood glucose in your target range. That’s the best way to prevent most diabetes complications.
  • Have your health care provider perform a complete foot exam at least once a year.
  • Check your bare feet daily. Look for red spots, cuts, swelling and blisters. If you cannot see the bottoms of your feet, use a mirror or ask someone for help.
  • Wash your feet every day. Dry them carefully, especially between the toes. Using a pumice stone (on wet skin) every day will help keep calluses under control.
  • Keep your skin soft and smooth by rubbing a thin coat of petroleum jelly or lotion over the tops and bottoms of your feet—but not between your toes. Too much moisture there can lead to infection.
  • If you can see and reach your toenails, trim them straight across as needed and file the edges with an emery board or nail file. If you cannot cut your toenails safely yourself, or if you have corns or calluses, have your health care provider take care of them for you. Calluses, if not trimmed, can thicken, break down and turn into open sores (ulcers).
  • Let your health care provider know if you have cuts or breaks in the skin or an ingrown toenail. Also, tell him or her if your foot changes color or shape or just feels different (for example, becomes less sensitive or hurts).
  • Keep blood flowing to your extremities. Exercise regularly and put your feet up when sitting. Don’t cross your legs for long periods of time.
  • Don’t smoke. Using tobacco products can cause decreased blood flow to the feet and make wounds heal more slowly.
  • Wear shoes and socks at all times; never go barefoot. Make sure your shoes fit well and protect your feet. Check inside your shoes for foreign objects before putting them on.
  • Protect your feet from hot and cold. You can burn your feet without realizing it, so test water before putting your feet in, just as you would when bathing a baby. Never use hot water bottles, heating pads or electric blankets. Wear shoes at the beach or on hot pavement.
  • Ask about prescription shoes covered by Medicare or other insurance.

Get moving with these easy steps — because diabetes doesn’t have to knock you off your feet.

Visit our website for more guidance on caring for your feet and visit the Amputee CoalitionThis image is associated with an external link. for more statistics and information about Limb Loss Awareness Month.

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This entry was posted in Ask the Expert, Complications, Life with Diabetes, Tips and ideas and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Stop Diabetes® From Knocking You Off Your Feet

  1. Joselynn Badman says:

    Very good article. I was unaware there are shoes that Medicare will cover. I will have to check into this. Thank you.

  2. luis c cruz says:

    I have been having achy feet for the last couple of weeks not sure what yo do

    • American Diabetes Association says:

      Luis, please do see a health care provider about the pain in your feet, as it could be something serious.

    • Melissa says:

      Please do not try to care for your own achy feet. If you have not done so yet, get established with a podiatrist. They are truly the best at evaluating your feet and making treatment recommendations They can also educate you diabetic foot complication prevention.

  3. Rashid Ahmad says:

    this one is a good effort thanks.

  4. This post is really info0rmative. Thanks for sharing the helpful tips.

  5. Earl says:

    I have a friend who does pedicures and manicures. She knows I have diabetes and I get her to give me a pedicure once a month. While she’s doing the pedicure she is extremely careful and she also checks the overall health of my feet, especially in spots where I can’t see. I’ve been doing this for a while now, and have not had any problems. She told me that some people won’t work on diabetics feet; is getting a pedicure monthly dangerous or healthy for me? Thanks!

  6. Deborah Wixon says:

    Well im sadened I had lost part of my foot and don’t intend to lose anymore they said I was going to lose my leg I proved them ring I still got my leg just not part of my foot im very grateful and im going to continue to fight

  7. tina sanders says:

    I have a lot of pain and burning in my feet.I’m type 2. I told my doctor and she did nothing.

    • American Diabetes Association says:

      Hi Tina, please do see someone about your concerns — even if it means finding another health care provider. You can call us at 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) if you would like help finding someone in your area.

  8. Dawn Rierson says:

    I have neuropathy and have had an infection on one of my toes. One day Iooked at my feet and my toe was black. Everything was resolved thank God. My doctor prescribed Diabetic shoes. The company called me and would not send a representative out because I didn’t have insurance that covered it and I am only 46 and don’t have medicare. It’s been six months and I still have no shoes. Not sure if I could afford it even if I could get someone to measure me for the inserts. I don’t know where to turn to get assistance with getting the shoes. I am sure the cost of the shoes is way less than losing a limb. Shoes in that case would be priceless!

    • American Diabetes Association says:

      Hi Dawn,

      You can still take good care of your feet until you are able to obtain diabetic shoes. Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes that protect your feet and lightly padded socks, stockings, or nylons to help avoid blisters and sores. Shoes made of leather or athletic shoes allow air to circulate while plastic or synthetic shoes will keep your feet from breathing. Cushioned soles will offer more support than leather. Laced shoes are better than slip-ons, which are narrower. Shoes with pointed toes or high heels can put pressure on your toes and should also be avoided.

      Try to wear socks without seams that are made from yarns that will take moisture away from your skin. Cotton absorbs sweat and keeps the moisture on the foot. Check the inside of your shoes each time you put them on to be sure the lining is still smooth and shake them out to remove any loose objects.

      If you have a loss of feeling in your feet, you may not be able to trust how a shoe feels to decide whether the fit is good for you. Go by the size instead of the feel. You should check your feet every few hours when wearing them the first few days to be sure the shoes aren’t damaging your feet.

      If you find any problems with your shoes after buying them, take them back. If the shoes fit well and aren’t causing problems, be sure to keep them in good repair. Keep in mind that some insoles need to be replaced every few months.

      Hope this helps!

    • Melissa says:

      Try to establish with a good podiatrist. They can educate you as to the best type of shoe for you. Prevention really goes a long way when it comes to your feet. Neuropathy can be devastating so don’t try to manage on your own. There are options out there for you. You should also be evaluated by a vascular doctor to make sure your circulation is adequate. Sometimes people will confuse the two (neuropathy and circulation problems), but they are different problems.

  9. Dhivya says:

    This article is very useful and creating awareness….especially when I have to take care of my loved ones….

  10. Jenny says:

    Very good article! Have one brother in law who lost his foot all the way up the middle of his shin. Could have just been prevented if he got his toe looked at earlier. My other brother in law a year ago was complaining of numbness in both his feet I told him to tell his doctor about it cause it sounded like neruapathy. Turns out he has it and bad. Neither of them in my opinion take their diabetes seriously, me on the other hand I take it very serious!

  11. Dianne Rogers says:

    My grandmother lost her feet from diabetes. It’s very scary. I now have diabetes and had had my large toenails removed a few years ago. They are growing back and are painful, red and swollen if I walk too much. My endo doesn’t seem concerned. Do diabetics go to a specialist doctor? Is there a name for this kind of doctor? Or just any podiatrist?

    • American Diabetes Association says:

      Your primary care physician can be a first line of defense, and people with diabetic foot complications may add a podiatrist to their health care team. They can have varying degrees of experience with diabetes, so be sure to ask:

      – How many of your patients have diabetes?
      – Are you familiar with the foot problems diabetes can cause?
      – Will you work with my primary care doctor, if needed?

    • Melissa says:

      Every diabetic should have a podiatrist in their phone book. Because your endo or possibly even your other doctors have a lot to deal with trying to get your diabetic numbers and medications and such under control, sometimes the feet get overlooked. Podiatrists focus on one thing-keeping your feet healthy. Even thick toenails can lead to infection, gangrene and amputation if diabetic has affected the nerves or arteries in your feet.

  12. shridhar says:

    Very informative article, thanks

  13. People with Diabetes have so many things to do. They often focus on the top half of the body and forget about their feet. Summer is coming. Make sure you follow the rules about foot care. PWD have about 100 times the risk of a non traumatic amputation than the rest of the population because of vascular disease and neuropathy. Take care of your feet. This is a good article with good advice.

  14. Tony Nelson says:

    had a nasty like split and have alot of calussed skin growing on pad of foot, split hurt like heck put neosporin an large gauze opad on it its ok now this is some scary stuff ,just cant seem to get any results or fast answers from the VA dont know what to do

    • American Diabetes Association says:

      Tony, you can call us at 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) if you would like help finding a health care provider with diabetes specialty in your area.

  15. Joanna says:


    Is this something to be concerned about with type 1 young children? Or is it more for adults? Or does it all depend on how well you are controlling your blood sugar, whether child or adult?

    • American Diabetes Association says:

      That’s a good question, Joanna. Age and degree of blood glucose control are the main factors affecting foot complications. Kids have few problems, because the blood vessel and nerve damage involved take years to develop. We recommend that everyone with diabetes, regardless of type or age, practice good foot care to prevent problems.

      Although foot problems are rare in children and adolescents, it is valuable for young patients to learn how to care for their feet and develop good foot care skills. It is recommended that children with type 1 diabetes have their feet examined beginning at puberty and then at least annually.

      Hope this answers your question!

  16. sims bulluck says:

    Are there any statistics on diabetics that lose their toes causing an increase in the probability of them losing their legs or feet? My husband lost his five toes on his right foot and we want to do what we can to prevent him losing any more of his limbs- any promising stats that this could be it for him and if we take care of his diet he should be okay?

  17. Heather says:

    Hi there,
    I am a Type 1 Diabetic whom has been going through many health complications in the last 2 years.
    I have developed Fibromyalgia, Chronic Abdominal pain, Chronic Diarrhea and have been in and out of the hospital with DKA due to dehydration and the pain causing such differences in my blood glucose levels, the stress and being in poor control has also led to this.
    I also have Hypothyroidism, which my levels are out of control. To the point where my GP has asked me how I am awake and functional.
    Over the past year I have noticed that there are calluses on both my Left and right foot, located on the very edge of the feet under the pinky toe. My feet are very dry and sore. I have done nothing to my Left foot yet, it hurts almost like i have sprained or dropped something heavy on it.
    It is to the point where i am limping on it, I have literally just found out how important it is to take care of your feet and I have realized i was doing everything they said not to.
    What do you think the pain is from and should i go and see a podiatrist in my area?
    If so, would you be able to help someone in Canada locate a foot specialist?

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