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Diabetes and Your Feet

Without proper attention, neuropathy (nerve damage) will affect about 50% of individuals with diabetes. Most at risk are people who have had diabetes for many years, and those diagnosed later in life. Many newly diagnosed seniors have had undiagnosed and uncontrolled diabetes for many years.

Proper foot care for people with diabetes is very important

  • Check daily for calluses, cuts or cracks in the skin and look for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, warmth or discharge.
  • Use a mirror, if necessary, to look at the bottoms of your feet.
  • Annual foot exams by your provider are a must.
  • Keep your feet clean. Do not use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, as they dry out the skin.
  • Be careful when soaking feet in hot water. Nerve damage decreases sensitivity to temperature.
  • Never go barefoot outdoors. When indoors, wear slippers.
  • Make sure your footwear fits properly. Wear soft, thick socks with no seams. Seams can rub the skin and cause blisters.
  • Rotate and change the shoes you wear.  Don’t wear the same shoes every day.
  • Shake your shoes out in the morning before putting them on. Tiny pebbles or debris can cause a sore. 
  • Apply a non-lanolin cream, free of dyes and fragrance (Aveeno, Ceravie and Nivea are good examples). They should be applied regularly in a thin coat to the tops and bottoms of the feet, but never in between the toes. Thorough drying between the toes is important.
  • If you can see, reach and feel your toes, you can cut your toenails, if not, have someone else do it.


Symptoms can range from a tingling or burning sensation, to a shooting or stabbing pain.   Some people feel as though their feet and legs are weak.  People with diabetes should be seen periodically by a foot specialist. 


Treatment for painful peripheral neuropathy is aimed at maintaining good blood glucose levels so that excess glucose in the system does not deposit on the small nerves of the hands and feet.  A number of medications are available, however proper blood glucose control must be achieved for the full benefits of medication. Your care team will discuss your specific needs and options.

Other Issues 

Other issues including hammertoes, bunions, dry skin, and abnormally shaped toenails can also lead to problems.  After age 40, the average person will find that their shoe size increases by 1 to 1.5 sizes. It is important to have your feet measured annually.  Wearing the wrong size shoe can cause severe damage for people with diabetes. 


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