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When to See Your Doctor About Foot Problems if you have Diabetes

Author:  Dr. Morissa Schwartz

As you probably know, diabetes can lead to serious foot problems over time. Nerve damage and reduced blood flow, especially in the feet and lower legs, develops in those who have lived with the condition for many years.. This can cause tingling, pain, or numbness. Reduced blood flow to the feet can also slow the healing process of wounds or infections, potentially leading to gangrene and necessitating amputation. 

While the risks may sound alarming, by simply being vigilant in taking care of your health and your feet, you can prevent major complications before they arise. Check your feet every day for any injuries or sores, maintain good hygiene, make sure to wear shoes that fit properly as the first steps to maintaining healthy feet. Check out our article about foot care to get more tips for avoiding issues like these.

Living with diabetes, you likely already work with several specialists to maintain your health. Between all of those doctors visits and checkups, you’re probably not keen on scheduling another for what seems like a minor affliction. It can be difficult to know, though, when you should see your doctor about a problem. While it’s always better to be safe than sorry, here are some general guidelines to help you decide when to contact a professional. 

  • Open cuts or sores
  • In general, anytime you have an open cut or sore that is slow to heal, you should get it checked out. Reduced blood flow to the feet can make it harder for skin cells to regenerate, leaving injuries exposed longer and putting you at risk for infection. Keep an eye on your feet and closely observe the healing of any abrasions. If nothing is improving after a few days, you should call your doctor. 

  • Pain in legs
  • Of course, any time you experience tingling, burning, pain, or loss of feeling in your feet, you should contact your doctor immediately, but pain throughout your legs is another signal that something may be wrong. If you experience pain or cramping in your buttocks, thighs, or calves during physical activity, call your doctor right away. Swelling in your feet or ankles should also be reported immediately. 

  • Foot Odor
  • Pay attention to foot odor as well. Of course, everyone will experience some foot odor after a day of activity, but if the odor suddenly changes or worsens, it could be a sign of a fungal infection, and you should let your doctor know right away. Keep an eye on your toenails too, as fungus can develop under nails. Be proactive against issues like this by washing nail tools after use, keeping your feet clean, and changing shoes and socks after physical activity. 

  • Hot spots
  • Another red flag is “hot spots” on the feet or legs. These are areas of higher temperature on the skin that may be due to excess friction from shoes. Treatment may be just a matter of choosing different shoes or socks, but you should let your doctor know just in case.

  • Change in color
  • A lesser known but equally important thing to look out for is change of coloring or texture in your feet. Yellowish, very pink, or blueish tone is a signal that something is going on below the skin. Also see a doctor about hair loss on lower legs, feet, or toes, or if your skin becomes dry and cracks. 

  • Shape of feet
  • Keep an eye on the shape of your feet. Nerve damage can weaken foot muscles and lead to shape changes that ultimately make walking difficult. In extreme cases, diabetes can weaken the bones of the foot so much that they break, and if nerve damage has reduced your feeling in your feel, you may continue walking on broken bones and ultimately deform your feet. Avoid this by taking note of any changes in shape or if shoes suddenly become uncomfortable and letting your doctor know as soon as possible. 

    When it comes to foot problems and diabetes, your best defense is to be proactive. Keep up with regular care to prevent small problems from becoming big ones, and you’ll be standing strong for years to come.

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