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Living With Diabetes: Keep Your Feet Healthy

People with diabetes can develop serious problems with their feet that can affect how easily they can walk, and even lead to amputation.

Many of these serious problems can be prevented by taking good care of your feet and your health:

  • Manage your diabetes, including keeping your blood pressure, blood sugar (glucose) and cholesterol at levels your health care provider recommends.
  • Don't smoke. Smoking reduces blood flow to the feet. Ask for help to stop smoking by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
  • Make healthy food choices.
  • Stay at a healthy weight.
  • Be physically active every day.
  • Take your medicines even when you feel good.
  • Have your doctor give you a comprehensive foot exam every time you visit (but at least four times a year).
  • Check your feet for sores and other injuries every day.
  • Wear shoes that fit right and do not rub or pinch your feet, or cause blisters.
  • Never walk barefoot or while wearing just socks.

Latest Research

Photo: Clipping toenailsResearch shows that diabetes often causes problems with feet and legs, and these problems can be severe.

In 2008 alone, more than 70,000 people with diabetes had a leg or foot amputated. Amputations in people with diabetes account for more than 60% of the amputations of legs and feet not resulting from an injury, such as from a car crash. People with diabetes were eight times as likely to lose a leg or foot to amputation as people without diabetes, according to CDC research.

How Diabetes Can Hurt Your Feet

These are some of the ways that diabetes can harm your feet:

  • Diabetes reduces blood flow to certain areas of the body, especially limbs such as the legs, which makes it harder for your body to heal injuries.
  • Diabetes nerve damage may cause you to no longer feel pain in your feet, and you may not realize you have a wound or injury that needs treatment.

Diabetic nerve damage appears to be more common in people with the following conditions:

  • Problems controlling blood sugar levels
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Overweight
  • Older than 40 years

Warning Signs

Photo: A young man trying on shoes.If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your health care provider or a podiatrist (foot doctor) right away.

  • You may feel pain in your legs or cramping in your buttocks, thighs, or calves during physical activity.
  • Your feet may tingle, burn, or hurt.
  • You may lose the sense of touch or not be able to feel heat or cold very well.
  • The shape of your feet may change over time.
  • The color and temperature of your feet may change.
  • You may lose hair on your toes, feet, and lower legs.
  • The skin on your feet may become dry and cracked.
  • Your toenails may turn thick and yellow.
  • Fungus infections such as athlete's foot may appear between your toes.
  • You may experience blisters, sores, ulcers, infected corns, and ingrown toenails.

Links to Foot Health Resources

The National Diabetes Education Program, an initiative of CDC and the National Institutes of Health, provides several Web pages and publications with helpful information on foot care and diabetes care:

CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation offers more resources:

More Information

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  • Page last reviewed: April 2, 2012 The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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