DAM: Diabetes & Feet

IMG_3178This is not a post about foot fetishes. Please. Go away.

(Are they gone? Good.) Thank you to those who are interested in learning about diabetes and what it can do to your tootsies. Diabetes isn’t a slacker disease, only hurting (or intimating that it will hurt) one part of your body. It can get you from head to toe….and so we’re talking about feet today.

Why Does Diabetes Affect Feet?

Nerve damage from diabetes (called neuropathy) can do a couple of nasty things to your feet. It can prevent you from feeling a wound or a cut if you step on something. Left untreated, that wound or cut can fester and develop an infection. People with diabetes don’t heal quite as quickly as those who aren’t pancreatically challenged, so untreated infections can cause major systematic damage throughout the body, including the foot. Don’t google diabetic ulcer or foot infections if you have eaten anything in the past hour day lifetime.

Untreated wounds or cuts can end in ulcers, gangrene, or amputation. Even an untreated blister can rupture and go Chernobyl on your foot and without feeling it due to the sensory diabetic neuropathy, you may not know until it’s advanced to epically serious proportions.

Then there’s the other side of neuropathy. The fiery pain, tingling, numbness that feels like a thousand tiny knives. My D-brother, George Simmons (a.k.a. Ninjabetic) talks about how the neuropathy in his feet impacts his life in a number of descriptive posts on his blog (The B.A.D. Blog): Foot Freakout and Resistance.

People with diabetes also tend to develop circulation issues over time. Poor blood flow means that the outer ends of the body (hands and feet and head) get less blood than they should, so they lose out. Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is the culprit, causing narrowing and hardening of the blood vessels, which can cause the loss of blood flow to the feet. No blood flow = no more foot.

It Rubs The Lotion On Its Skin

I apologize for the Silence of The Lambs reference.

Skin, the largest organ in our body (Yes, it’s an organ!), needs moisture and people with diabetes sometimes don’t have enough, whether through high blood sugars or not enough hydration or just the lack of oil production due to… yeah, that nerve damage I mentioned earlier. People with diabetes are notorious for having occasional (or permanent) dry, cracked heels and rough feet. Solution? Lotion. Plain and simple. The cracks can get infected if they become large enough.

Calluses are also common. Thick calluses can develop and what’s the worst thing you can do? Try to peel them or shave them or whatever gross thing you attempt. If they don’t go away with healthy applications of lotion or a daily pumice stone, then see a podiatrist.

In my teens, I hated my feet because the high blood sugars I lived with caused huge cracks in my heels. It was embarrassing.  Lotion wasn’t enough. It wasn’t until I got my blood glucose levels under control that the cracks started to disappear. Even now, I still need lotion to keep those hoofers smooth and silky.

Other Not Fun Things Diabetes Gives Our Feet

Athlete’s Foot is more common. Bunions. Planters Warts. Fungal nail infections. Corns. Blisters. Hammertoes. (Not to be confused with Hammertime, which involves big pants and righteous dance moves.) Basically, if you don’t want it, it’s a possibility.

I’m only scratching the surface. There’s also Charcot’s Joint (neuropathic arthropathy), a painful degeneration of the weight bearing joint and foot deformity.

You know how much I abhor individuals who feel it’s perfectly acceptable to talk about someone who has diabetes and kicked the bucket earlier than expected. Often, they’ll mention the loss of a foot or a leg… well, boys and girls, if you don’t take care of your feet, someone could be talking about you like that someday. I refuse to be that person, so here’s the good things we can do right now…

Tips for Good Diabetes Foot Care

  • Check your feet every day. If you can’t see the bottom of your feet, get someone to check them for you. If you don’t have anyone who wants to be intimate like that (Hey, fetish person… I said go away.), then you can get a chair, put it in front of a full length mirror and lift them up to see the bottoms. If you see something abnormal, see your medical team right away.
  • After showering, pumice gently, rub lotion on your feet, and make sure the in betweens of your twinkle toes are dry. 
  • Wear comfy shoes and socks that don’t chafe. (You wouldn’t wear underwear that chafes all day, right? Same should go for your feet.) “But I love my high heel too-tight pumps!” Yeah, me too. But I love my feet more. I’m not wearing “diabetic socks” and “diabetic shoes” (shudder), but I’m much more picky about comfort over style. (I live in Birkenstocks when I’m home, but do love my Franco Sartos when I do boots.)
  • Don’t smoke. (Do I need to talk about why? If so, then so many public awareness campaigns have failed. Then again, I did smoke when I was younger. So, you know. Do as I say now and not as I did.)
  • In range blood glucose control will help prevent/delay complications - and if you do have a diabetic ulcer or infection, those in range blood sugars can help speed up healing.
  • Kick up your heels. Prop your dogs up when you’re not using them. Wiggle them around. Keep them moving.

The topic of feet is obviously not one of my favorites, but my feet are not allowed to go anywhere without me, so they need to stick around. When I was a youngster (Get off my lawn.), I didn’t think the topic of foot care was something that I needed to think about, listen to, or bother with. Seeing as how that miraculous cure that some tout as being only five years away is now twenty-five years past its arrival date, I figure I’d pass on the knowledge.

Doesn’t matter if you’ve had diabetes for a year or fifty - we can all have issues with our feet.

(Hey, foot fetish person? You still here? Well, hope you learned something about diabetes today. If you want to learn more about diabetes, subscribe to my blog. You’ll love it. Cross my feet.)



  1. Shara

    Lovely post! Very organized and immensely informative…
    but the Silence of the Lambs reference was still my favorite part :P

  2. Scott E

    OK, stupid question: what’s the difference between scraping off heel-callouses with a pumice stone than, say, a fingernail (or - confession time - removing chunks of callous with a nail clipper?). I’ve got some thick callouses on my heels, but other than that, my feet and toes are silky-smooth; moreso than my scratchy fingertips! The feeling of getting slimy lotion all over my feet, bedroom carpet, and the inside of my socks is just…yuck. Same with the thought of seeing yet another doctor.

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