Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

Peripheral Neuropathy, Diabetes, and Your Feet

When you have peripheral neuropathy caused by diabetes, your feet and skin need extra care and attention.

Very small, repetitive injuries to the feet -- like those caused by poorly fitting shoes -- can lead to bigger problems, says Tom Elasy, MD, MPH, a diabetes researcher at the Diabetes Center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. "Calluses, blisters, sores, infections, and foot ulcers may appear on numb areas of the foot, because pressure or injury goes unnoticed. This happens simply because you can't feel the problem."

Recommended Related to Diabetes

3 Diabetes Tests You Must Have

Even before you notice symptoms, high blood sugar can damage parts of your body. That's why certain diabetes tests to check blood sugar control and to catch problems early are so crucial. But many patients aren't getting key diabetes tests at least annually, such as the hemoglobin A1c test, a dilated eye exam, and a foot exam. "If you look at the nationwide data, it's sobering," says Enrico Cagliero, MD, a diabetes researcher and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School...

Read the 3 Diabetes Tests You Must Have article > >

Also, people with uncontrolled diabetes have a hard time fighting infections. They may also have poor circulation that can lead to problems with healing. That means a minor cut in the skin could become an ulcer or develop into a serious infection. With good foot care, you can prevent most of these problems.

Inspect Feet Daily if You Have Diabetes

"We recommend that patients inspect their feet on a daily basis for cuts, any signs of redness, calluses, or blisters," says Elasy. "Using a little mirror can help. Also, it's important to moisturize. But avoid getting it between the toes, because that area is already moist. So extra moisture tends to cause fungal infections."

Even if you have diabetes, caring for your feet is easy. It's best to do it when you are bathing or getting ready for bed. And remember that good foot care also involves getting medical help early if a problem develops. It's very important to see your doctor for treatment right away -- to prevent serious complications like infections.

Here are good everyday foot care habits to follow:

  • Inspect feet daily. Wash your feet, and then thoroughly dry them. Use a handheld mirror (like a magnifying mirror) to inspect them. Look for blisters, cuts, cracks, dry skin, redness, tenderness, or sores on the skin, between the toes, and on the soles of your feet.
  • Powder in between your toes. This helps keep that moist skin dry and helps prevent fungal infections.
  • Rub lotion on feet and legs to prevent dry cracked skin. But don't put lotion between the toes because of the risk of fungal infections.
  • Keep nails trimmed. Use an emery board for filing so you don't hurt your skin.
  • Protect your feet. Always wear shoes or slippers to protect feet from injury. Don't use a heating pad or hot water bottle to warm your feet.
  • Get checkups at the doctor. On each visit, make sure the doctor inspects your feet.
  • Don't use corn removers or other drugstore foot treatments. These can be harmful. Let a doctor treat your foot problems.
  • Wear properly fitted shoes. Also, wear socks at all times to prevent injury.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD on September 27, 2012

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Low
0-69
Normal
70-130
High
131+

Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Woman holding cake
Slideshow
feet
Slideshow
 
man organizing pills
Slideshow
Close up of eye
Slideshow
 

Woman serving fast food from window
Video
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Video
 
Middle aged person
Tool
are battery operated toothbrushes really better
Video
 

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Article
type 2 diabetes
Slideshow
 
food fitness planner
Tool
Are You at Risk for Dupuytrens Contracture
Article