How to look after your feet if you have diabetes

Foot health is vital for people with diabetes. Find out how to look after your feet and when to get help.

It's especially important to look after your feet if you have diabetes. Here's how to take care of your feet and advice on when to get professional help.

Diabetes can reduce the blood supply to your feet and cause a loss of feeling known as peripheral neuropathy. This can mean foot injuries do not heal well, and you may not notice if your foot is sore or injured.

"The risk of complications can be greatly reduced if you're able to bring your blood sugar levels under control," says foot specialist Mike O'Neill.

"Ensure that your blood pressure and cholesterol levels are also monitored and controlled with medication if needed."

Foot care tips if you have diabetes

  • See a private or NHS podiatrist at least once a year. You should be eligible for an NHS podiatrist if you have a long term condition such as diabetes. Ask your GP for a referral or find a local podiatrist
  • Keep your feet clean and free from infection.
  • Wear shoes that fit well and don't squeeze or rub. Ill-fitting shoes can cause corns and calluses, ulcers and nail problems.
  • Never walk barefoot, especially in the garden or on the beach on holidays to avoid cuts and try to avoid sitting with your legs crossed so you don't constrict your blood circulation.
  • Cut or file your toenails regularly.
  • Get corns or hard skin treated by a podiatrist.  

Stop smoking to protect your feet

If you have diabetes, it's important to try to stop smoking. Smoking impairs the blood circulation, particularly in people with diabetes. It can seriously worsen foot and leg problems.

Read more about how the NHS can help you to stop smoking.

When to see a doctor

Seek treatment from your GP or podiatrist if blisters or injuries do not heal quickly.

You should see your doctor urgently if:

  • you notice breaks in the skin of your foot, or discharge seeping from the wound
  • the skin over part or all of the foot changes colour and becomes more red, blue, pale or dark 
  • you notice extra swelling in your feet where there was a blister or injury
  • there is redness or swelling around an ulcer or in an area where you've previously been warned to seek immediate attention

The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists has more information on diabetes and footcare (PDF, 1.3Mb).

 

 

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