Diabetic Foot Problems – Know What Happens to Your Feet and Legs Due to Diabetes

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Mohammad Suleman Hussain, M.B.B.S April 12, 2022

Last updated on April 12th, 2022


Diabetes problems arise when too much glucose (sugar) is in the blood for a long time. High glucose levels in the blood (also called blood sugar) can damage many organs in the body, such as the eyes, blood vessels, heart, and kidneys. Heart and blood vessel disease can cause heart attacks or strokes. Read this blog to know about diabetic foot problems.

You can do a lot to halt or delay diabetes problems. This article contains information on foot and skin problems caused by diabetes along with diabetic foot first signs. You will learn what you can do each day to stay healthy and prevent diabetes problems each year. High blood glucose levels can also lead to foot and skin problems.

What Should You do Daily to Stay Healthy Despite Diabetes?

What Should You do Daily to Stay Healthy Despite Diabetes? , diabetes feet hurt , diabetes itchy lower legs

  • Follow the healthy meal plan that you and your doctor or dietitian developed.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention, it’s important to be physically active for 20-25 minutes almost every day. Ask your doctor which activities are best for you.
  • Take your medications as directed.
  • Check your blood glucose levels every day. Each time you do this, write down the result on the record sheet.
  • Check your feet daily for cuts, blisters, sores, swelling, redness, or sore nails.
  • Brush and floss your teeth every day.
  • Check your blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Do not smoke.

Also Read: Conversion of blood sugar level mmol/l to mg/dl

How Can diabetes Hurt Feet?


High blood glucose levels due to diabetes cause two problems that can damage your feet.

Nerve damage:  According to the Mayo Clinic, diabetic neuropathy is one of the problems that causes damage to the nerves in the legs and feet. When nerves are damaged, your legs and feet may not feel pain, heat, or cold. When you don’t have sensation in these areas, a sore or cut on your feet can worsen because you don’t know you have it. The lack of sensation arises from nerve damage, which is also called diabetic neuropathy. This can lead to a significant injury or infection.

Poor blood circulation:  The second problem occurs when there is not enough blood flow in the legs and feet. Poor circulation prevents sores or infections from healing. This problem is called peripheral vascular disease. When a person has diabetes, smoking worsens circulation problems.

For example, shoes can cause a blister when they don’t fit properly. But because of the nerve damage in the foot, you don’t notice the pain caused by the blister. Then, the blister becomes infected. If blood glucose levels are high, the excess glucose feeds the germs that cause the infection.

The germs multiply, and the infection worsens. Reduced blood circulation in the legs and feet delays the healing of the infection. In some cases, extensive infections never heal. This type of infection could cause gangrene.

When gangrene is present, the skin and tissue around the sore die. The area turns black and smells terrible. The doctor may need surgery to cut off a toe, the entire foot, or even part of the leg to prevent gangrene from affecting more skin and tissue. This surgery is called an amputation.

Also Read: Glycomet gp1 Tablet For Diabetes

What is the Diabetic Foot?


According to the National Institute of Health, diabetic foot disorder is caused by disease of the peripheral arteries supplying the foot, often complicated by injury to the peripheral nerves of the foot and infection.

Many people ask what happens to diabetics feet. The answer is that gangrene occurs due to the occlusion of the arteries that carry blood to the feet.

The foot of the diabetic patient is susceptible to all forms of trauma: the heel and the bony prominence are especially vulnerable.

Damage to the peripheral nerves of the feet causes sensory disturbances, foot ulcers, and atrophy of the skin.

It is common in diabetic patients that the injuries typical of the so-called diabetic foot pass without pain. The injury usually worsens before the patient asks for specialized help.

Diabetic Foot Symptoms

Diabetic Foot Symptoms

Diabetic foot generally doesn’t show major signs at first. However, if left unattended, one might notice the following diabetic foot symptoms:


Diabetic foot symptoms often result from nerve damage, leading to tingling, burning, or numbness.

Impaired Blood Circulation:

Diabetes can cause poor blood flow, slowing down wound healing and increasing susceptibility to infections.

Detectability Issues:

Diabetic foot symptoms also include detectability issues. Nerve damage may make it challenging for individuals to notice injuries, allowing problems to escalate.

Foot Conditions:

Common manifestations include foot ulcers, calluses, and deformities due to the combined effects of neuropathy and poor circulation.


Diabetic foot symptoms can often progress to complications. If untreated, diabetic foot issues can progress to serious complications such as gangrene, sometimes necessitating amputation (cutting off the foot).

Preventive Measures:

Regular foot exams, optimal glucose control, and lifestyle adjustments are crucial for preventing and managing diabetic foot symptoms and problems. Early detection is key to minimizing overall health impact.

Diabetic Foot Causes

Diabetic Foot Symptoms , diabetic foot causes


Nerve damage (neuropathy) is one of the primary diabetic foot causes, as diabetes can impair the nerves controlling sensation in the feet, leading to reduced ability to detect injuries or pressure.

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD):

Foot problems in diabetes can also be causes due to peripheral artery disease. Diabetes contributes to poor blood circulation, increasing the risk of Peripheral Artery Disease. Reduced blood flow hampers the healing process and promotes complications.

Infection Risk:

Elevated blood sugar levels weaken the immune system, making individuals with diabetes more susceptible to infections. Even minor wounds can escalate into serious infections and can be one of the diabetic foot causes.

Foot Deformities:

Diabetes-related neuropathy and pressure from ill-fitting shoes can cause foot deformities, altering the distribution of weight and leading to increased stress on specific areas.

Delayed Healing:

Another one in the list of diabetic foot causes is delayed healing. High glucose levels can impair the body’s ability to heal. Even minor cuts or sores take longer to heal, providing a window for infections to develop.

Poor Blood Sugar Control:

Inconsistent or inadequate management of blood sugar levels contributes significantly to diabetic foot complications, emphasizing the importance of tight glycemic control.

Lifestyle Factors:

Smoking, poor diet, and sedentary lifestyles exacerbate the risk of diabetic foot issues, emphasizing the need for holistic health management. Regular foot care, lifestyle adjustments, and diligent glucose control are essential in preventing diabetic foot problems.

Also Read: Sugar Level

What Can You Do to Take Care of Your Feet?

What Can You Do to Take Care of Your Feet?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if your diabetes feet hurt, here are some tips to keep your feet healthy in diabetes:

  • Soak your feet every day with lukewarm water.  Touch the water with your elbow to make sure it is not too hot. Don’t soak your feet. Dry your feet wholly, especially between the toes.
  • Check your feet every day for injuries, cuts, blisters, redness, calluses, or other problems. It’s essential to check your feet daily if your diabetes feet hurt, you have nerve damage or poor circulation. If you cannot bend or lift your foot to prevent it, use a mirror. If your eyesight is not great, have someone else check your feet.
  • If you have dry skin, apply moisturizer after washing and drying your feet.  Don’t put moisturizer between your toes if your diabetes feet hurt.
  • Use a pumice stone or a cardboard file to file corns and calluses gently.  File them off after bathing or showering.
  • Trim your toenails once a week at least.  Cut your nails when they are delicate after bathing. Cut them following the contour of your finger, and make sure they are not too short. File nails with a cardboard file.
  • Regularly wear slippers or shoes to protect your feet from injury.
  • If your diabetes feet hurt, regularly wear stockings or socks to avoid blisters. Do not wear socks or short stockings that are too tight below the knees.
  • Wear shoes that fit well.  Buy your shoes in the midday, when your feet are most swollen. Wear new shoes cautiously until they soften. Use them only 1 to 2 hours a day for the first 1 to 2 weeks.
  • Before putting on your shoes, touch the inside of your shoes and ensure no sharp edges that could possibly hurt your feet.

Also Read: Fruits for diabetic patients

What are Common Foot Problems Caused by Diabetes?


Anyone can get corn, blisters, and athlete’s foot. If you have diabetes and your blood glucose levels remain high, these foot problems can cause infections.

  • Corn and diabetic calluses on your feet are thick layers of skin caused by too much rubbing and pressure at a single point. Corns and calluses can become infected.
  • The blisters can be formed if shoe pressure is at a single point. When shoes don’t fit well or when worn without socks, a blister can form. Blisters can become infected.
  • Ingrown toenails tend to occur when the edge of a nail digs into the skin and grows. The skin can turn red and become infected. Toenails can become ingrown toenail callus when the corners of the toenails are cut too deeply. According to Mayo Clinic, diabetes can increase your risk of developing ingrown toenails. If the sides of the nails are sharp, file them with a cardboard file. Nails can also become ingrown when shoes are too tight.
  • The bunion forms when the foot’s big toe is inclined toward the other toes, and as a result, the section of the bone, is at the base of the significant toe size increases. Bunions can turn red, cause pain, and become infected. Bunions can develop on both feet as well as on one foot. Pointed-toe shoes can cause bunions. Bunions are generally more common in some families. They can be removed with surgery.
  • The hammertoes are formed when a foot muscle weakens. The weakness can be caused by nerves that have been damaged by diabetes. The weak muscle causes the tendons of the foot to become shorter and the toes to bend downward. You can also get sores on the bottom of your foot and the top of your toes. The feet can change shape. Hammertoes can make it difficult to walk and find shoes that fit well. Hammertoes are generally more common in some families. Shoes that are too small can also cause hammertoes.
  • The dry, chapped skin occurs when the nerves in the legs and feet do not get the message to keep the skin moist and soft. Dry skin can break open and allow infection-causing germs to enter. If blood glucose levels are high, the excess glucose feeds the germs and makes the infection worse.
  • The athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that causes the skin to become red and cracking. It causes diabetes itchy lower legs. The split skin between the fingers allows germs to enter the skin. If blood glucose levels are high, the excess glucose feeds the germs and makes the infection worse. The infection can spread to the toenails, making them thicker, yellow, and challenging to cut.

Also Read: 1000 calorie diet for diabetics

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

How does diabetes affect the feet and legs?

Due to diabetic neuropathy, the nerve cells of the legs and feet can get damaged. Its symptoms range from pain, itchy feet diabetes, and numbness in feet and legs, issues in digestive system, problem in blood vessels, and others.

What does it mean to have diabetes purple toe?

The tissue of the feet change color to blue or purple when the cells and tissues of the feet do not receive enough blood. This is also known as blue toe syndrome.

How can a doctor help you take care of your feet?

1. Report any feet affected by diabetes problems to your doctor immediately.
2. Ask your doctor to examine your feet every time you go for an appointment to monitor your diabetes. Take off your
3. shoes and socks before the doctor enters the exam room, so you don’t forget to check your feet.
4. Ask your doctor to check you to see how well the nerves in your feet are transmitting sensations.
5. Ask your doctor to examine the blood flow in your legs and feet.
6. Ask your doctor to show you how to trim your toenails. Ask what type of moisturizer to use for the skin on your legs and feet.
7. If you can’t cut your toenails yourself or have a foot problem, ask your doctor to refer you to a foot doctor.

How can diabetes damage the skin?

Diabetes can damage the skin in two ways.
1. When blood glucose levels are high, the body loses fluid which results in diabetes and dry feet. When there is less fluid in the body, the skin can become dry. Dry skin can be itchy, and scratching can cause pain. The skin of your diabetes itchy lower legs start to break. When the skin is split, it allows the entry of germs that cause infection. If blood glucose levels are high, the excess glucose feeds the germs and makes the infection worse. The skin on the legs, feet, elbows, and elsewhere can become dry. Drinking fluids helps keep your skin healthy and moist.
2. Nerve damage can reduce the amount of sweat. Sweat helps keep skin soft and moist. A reduction in the amount of sweat on the legs and feet can dry out the skin.

What can you do to take care of your skin?

1. After washing with a non-irritating soap, be sure to rinse and dry thoroughly. Thoroughly dry places where water can hide, such as under the arms and breasts and between the legs and toes.
2. After washing, use a moisturizer to keep your skin moist. Ask your doctor to recommend such a cream.
3. Drink plenty of fluids, such as water, to keep your skin moist and healthy.
4. Wear pure cotton underwear. Cotton allows air to circulate better between clothing and skin.
5. Check your skin after washing. Make sure it doesn’t have dry, red, or sore areas that can become infected.

Last Updated on by Dr. Damanjit Duggal 


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