How can Diabetes Affect the Feet

In some cases, the damage can be severe. Infections in the feet can spread, damage other organs, and even become life-threatening. A severe foot infection may mean that the doctor has to amputate the foot.

Although most people with diabetes do not develop serious foot complications, diabetes remains a leading cause of amputation.

Diabetes is usually caused by insulin deficiency (type 1 diabetes) or insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes). Insulin is an essential hormone that helps cells absorb sugar from the blood to use for energy.

When this process does not work properly, sugar circulates in the blood, causing health problems.

Long-term high blood sugar can cause nerve damage and circulation problems that can lead to foot injuries.

In this article, we look at foot problems that can occur in people with uncontrolled or uncontrolled diabetes and discuss how to prevent and manage these effects.

Foot Problems in Diabetes

How can Diabetes Affect the Feet

The following are some foot problems people may experience:

Diabetic Neuropathy

People with diabetes are at increased risk for peripheral vascular disease (PVD), especially if they don’t take their medications or have trouble controlling their blood sugar. PVD occurs when fatty deposits narrow blood vessels, reducing circulation.

PVD affects the blood vessels that lead to limbs such as the hands and feet, reducing blood flow to both. Decreased blood flow can lead to pain, infection, and wounds that heal slowly.

Over time, peripheral vascular disease can cause nerve damage that causes numbness in the feet. This can make it difficult for people with diabetes to feel sensation in their limbs. High blood sugar also damages nerves and interferes with their ability to send signals.

This condition also makes it difficult for a person with diabetes to experience burning, pain or infection in the feet. When a person is rubbing his shoes, he cannot feel it. This lack of sensation can increase the risk of cuts, bruises and blisters. It can also delay treatment of an infection, as a person may not realize they have an infection.


Diabetes increases the risk of ulcers in several ways. First, diabetic neuropathy can make it more difficult for a person to know when their shoes don’t fit. It can also change the way a person walks, increasing the risk of blisters.

People with diabetes can also develop a condition known as bullous diabeticorum trusted source, which refers to the spontaneous formation of blisters. Doctors don’t know why blisters appear.

Blisters can become infected, causing pain and increasing the risk of infection spreading throughout the body.

Diabetic Ulcers

About 7% of people with peripheral neuropathy develop diabetic foot ulcers each year. The combination of poor circulation and nerve damage means that a person may not feel the ulcers until they are severe. Poor circulation can also slow healing. If left untreated, ulcers can damage the foot and lead to infection.

Ulcers can also make walking very painful. Shoes and socks can aggravate ulcer symptoms.

Diabetic Calluses

Calluses are areas of hardened, thickened skin cells. Large calluses on the feet can make walking difficult and change the way shoes fit. The main problem with calluses is that they increase the risk of ulcers and infection. Keeping calluses clean and removing them when needed is important for foot protection.

Foot Infections Because of Diabetes

Diabetic ulcers can become infected, especially if a person does not treat them or keep them clean. These infections can spread to the bloodstream, damage organs, and threaten a person’s life.

A person may also experience gangrene, which causes tissue death and can lead to amputation.

Foot infections can damage the underlying structures of the foot, including the bones. Poor circulation also damages infrastructure. This can change the shape of the foot, causing more pain and difficulty walking. Doctors call it Charcot foot.

Charcot foot increases the risk of developing ulcers.


Diabetic foot problems can lead to serious infections. To prevent the infection from spreading and to minimize damage to nearby areas such as the legs, the doctor may recommend amputation. Amputation means the removal of a part of the body, such as part of a foot, leg, or foot.

Diabetes is a leading cause of amputation. A 2020 study estimated that it plays a role in the 25-90% reliable source of amputation within the studied groups of people.


Diabetic neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease are serious conditions that should be closely monitored by a doctor.

Both cause complications that can have serious, ongoing effects. These complications may include:

  • foot ulcers or wounds that do not heal
  • infections, including skin infections, bone infections, and abscesses
  • gangrene, when an infection causes tissue death
  • foot deformity
  • Charcot foot, which alters the shape of the feet as bones in the foot and toe shift or break
  • death
  • damage to surrounding structures, such as the legs

Sometimes, doctors can rule out complications, such as infection. However, other complications, including gangrene, can lead to permanent physical changes.

If a person develops gangrene, a doctor may recommend amputation.

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