Diabetes Foot and Ankle Problems
Nerve damage in the feet (peripheral neuropathy) or poor blood flow to the feet increase the risk for various foot and ankle complications, including diabetic foot ulcers. Left untreated, cuts and blisters can become serious infections. Severe damage might require toe, foot or even leg amputation.
Your primary health care provider will examine your feet and legs at office visits for diabetes foot conditions and may recommend you see a podiatrist or neurologist to address your needs.
When you have diabetes, it is important to check your feet every day. Use a mirror to look at the bottom of your feet to get a good view. Call your doctor if you notice any of these changes on your feet:
- Toenail changes
- Ingrown toenail
- Foot changes color, shape or becomes less sensitive
- Tingling or loss of feeling in feet (peripheral neuropathy)
- Foot becomes swollen, red or painful
For foot wounds that have become infected, treatment must be aggressive and rapid to be effective. Wound therapy might include some or all of the following:
- Infected tissue is removed to prevent the spread of the infection. The process is known as surgical debridement.
- Antibiotics or antifungal treatments fight the infection at its source.
- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves spending time in a pressurized chamber that increases the amount of oxygen available for you to breathe and for your red blood cells to take in. This is thought to help in wound healing.
- Tetanus immunization might be recommended to protect against additional infection.
There are steps you can take to prevent foot problems from developing, including these suggestions:
- Check your feet and toes daily for any cuts, sores, bruises, bumps or infections – use a mirror if necessary.
- Examine your shoes before putting them on to make sure there are no sharp edges or objects in them that might injure your feet.
- Wash your feet daily and dry them thoroughly.
- Do not soak your feet.
- Wear shoes that fit well and allow your toes to move.
- Cut your toenails straight across.
- Avoid sitting with your legs crossed.
- Do not walk barefoot.