Common Diabetes Foot Problems

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People with diabetes are at a much greater risk for developing foot problems, mostly due to nerve damage. So, what might appear to be a minor problem, such as a corn or blister, can turn into a much bigger problem, such as an ulcer. People with diabetes should inspect their feet daily and see a foot doctor as soon as they notice any changes.


Diabetic neuropathy is damage to nerves in the body that occurs due to high blood sugar levels from diabetes. Nerve injuries are caused by decreased blood flow and high blood sugar levels and are more likely to develop if blood sugar levels are not well controlled. The most common symptom is loss of feeling in the feet and, most of the time, symptoms do not begin until 10 to 20 years after diabetes has been diagnosed.

Source: NIH

Peripheral vascular disease

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD), or peripheral artery disease (PAD), is a condition of the blood vessels that leads to narrowing and hardening of the arteries that supply the legs and feet. The classic symptoms are pain, achiness, fatigue, burning, or discomfort in the muscles of your feet, calves, or thighs. These symptoms usually appear during walking or exercise and go away after several minutes of rest.

Source: NIH

Foot ulcers

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, diabetic ulcers are the most common foot injuries leading to lower extremity amputation. Ulcers occur most often on the ball of the foot or on the bottom of the big toe - some are painful and some are not. Regardless, it's imperative to let your physician know immediately if you notice any sores on your feet. 

Source: ADA, AAFP


According to the ADA, people with diabetes are more prone to calluses because there are high-pressure areas under the foot. If the calluses are left untrimmed, they can eventually break down and turn into ulcers. The best way to control callus growth is use a pumice stone every day on wet skin. Always consult with your doctor if you notice a thick callus - do not try to self-treat. 

Source: ADA

Dry, flaky skin

Because of the damaged nerves that control sweat and oil production due to continued high blood sugars, people with diabetes may experience dry, cracked or flaky skin on their feet. After bathing, they completely dry the feet and apply petroleum jelly or lotion to the soles of the feet.

Source: ADA