Diabetes: Four foot changes that require urgent medical attention

Diabetes type 2: Dr Zoe Williams discusses high blood sugar risks

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Exponentially high blood sugar levels destroy the inner workings of the body. Seemingly minor foot issues can rapidly evolve into serious problems, so seek medical attention right away if you notice any of these warning signs. Any changes in the colour and shape of the feet is considered an emergency by the health charity Diabetes UK. Another red flag is when the feet feel abnormally cold or hot, or if you can see blisters and cuts but you can’t feel them.

The final alarming distress signal is when there’s a foul smell coming from an open wound on the foot.

Any of these four foot changes require immediate medical attention.

There may be other changes that also require a check over from your GP.

This includes seeing shiny, smooth skin on the feet, swollen feet, hair loss on the feet and legs, and feet that don’t sweat.

Other noteworthy changes that would benefit from GP assistance include:

  • Tingling sensation or pins and needles (like numbness)
  • Pain (burning)
  • A dull ache
  • Loss of feeling in your feet or legs
  • Wounds or sores that don’t heal
  • Cramp in your calves when resting or walking

“Someone with diabetes is 20 times more likely to experience an amputation,” warned Diabetes UK.

I’ve noticed a problem, now what do I do?

Firstly, take the weight off your foot; secondly, contact your GP or foot protection team immediately.

If a GP or a member of the foot protection team aren’t available, go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department.

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How does high blood sugar cause such significant foot issues?

Diabetes UK explained that raised blood sugar levels can cause less blood supply to reach the feet.

Without good blood supply, the feet will have issues with healing any cuts and wounds you may get.

You may not even realise you have a cut or wound on your foot, as high blood sugars can lead to a loss of sensation in the feet and toes.

Wounds on the feet can then turn into foot ulcers and infections, while you remain totally unaware.

This is why it’s so important to check your feet daily, and to alert your diabetes team if you see a blister or cut.

How to look after my feet

Diabetes UK advise all diabetics to not smoke as this can worsen poor circulation, meaning less blood can reach the feet.

It’s also key to manage blood sugar levels, cholesterol and blood pressure to prevent foot issues from developing.

Another tip is to cut your toenails correctly to avoid piercing the skin by mistake, which can lead to further injuries.

Cutting toenails:

  1. Cut them often but not too short or down the side
  2. Trim them with nail clippers and then use an emery board to file any corners
  3. Clean them gently with a nail brush – don’t use the sharp points of scissors to clean as this isn’t safe.

“Washing daily is also a simple way to keep your feet and toenails clean and away from infection,” added the charity.

Fitted footwear

“If your shoes or socks are too tight, too loose or rub, then don’t wear them,” said Diabetes UK.

Old innersoles, socks with holes in them or those that have thick seams could all cause problems with people with diabetes, so don’t risk it.

It’s good to have shoes that:

  • Are broad fitting
  • Have a deep and rounded toe area
  • Are flat or low heeled
  • Are fastened by a lace or buckle to stop your feet sliding around.

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