Patients with diabetes are prone to getting certain foot issues because of the resulting neuropathy or peripheral vascular disease. The neuropathy and vascular disease causes nerve damage and restricted blood flow which can lessen one’s ability to have sensation in the feet or take much longer to heal from an injury, especially if it is a cut. The damage to the nerves and the weakening of the tissue from reduced blood flow can increase one’s risk of various foot conditions and infections.
What are some foot issues that diabetics are prone to getting and in which they need to watch for?
- Athlete’s Foot. With Athlete’s foot, a fungus can cause germs to enter into the skin via cracks in the skin. Symptoms include cracking, itching and redness. Athlete’s foot can be treated with a variety of medicines, with the most common treatments coming in the form of a pill or a rub-on cream.
- Nail Fungal Infections. Nail infections are harder to treat than Athlete’s Foot. With fungal nail infections, the nail may get discolored, become thick or brittle and weakened to the point where the nail begins to crumble. The most common nail fungus treatments include topical ones spread directly onto the toenails and pills that can only be prescribed by a doctor. Fungal infections can be caused by the moist and warm environment of shoes and injury to the toenails.
- Calluses. Calluses are a hardened build-up of skin which is often on the underside of the feet. The uneven or incorrect distributions of weight, skin abnormalities or ill-fitting shoes cause calluses. Various treatments are available including prescribed medications, cushioned shoe insoles and using a pumice stone when bathing to gently scrub off the built-up tissue. Calluses should not be cut or sliced off with a sharp object as infection can result.
- Corns. Similar to calluses, corns are also a build-up of hardened tissue on the feet. The only difference is that corns develop between the toes and near bony areas. Rubbing with a pumice stone or taking prescription medication can treat corns. Topical treatments and cutting off the corns with a sharp object are not good ways to remove corns.
- Blisters. Blisters are painful pockets of puss that often develop on the bottom of the feet, and on the toes. The most common causes of blisters are ill-fitting shoes and wearing shoes for long periods of time without socks. Against your instinct, popping a blister is the worst thing to do. Popped blisters can quickly and easily lead to infections that will take a diabetic longer to heal from.
- Bunions. A bunion is when the big toe begins to grow crooked, angling toward the second toe. Because the big toe grows crooked, the portion of the toe that attaches it to the foot can become callused, sore and red. The area can also become hard. Bunions can be hereditary or they can be the result of an ill-fitting shoe such as high heels with a narrow area for the toes. Foam padding, toe separators and surgery are common cures for bunions.
- Foot ulcers. A foot ulcer is a break in the skin or a deep sore, which can become infected. Foot ulcers can result from minor scrapes, cuts that heal slowly or from the rubbing of shoes that do not fit well. Early intervention is important in treatment. Ask your doctor for advice on how to best care for your wound.
- Hammertoes. Hammertoes are toes that are curled under the feet due to weakened, shortened tendons of the toes. Hammertoes can impede one’s ability to properly walk and run as well as contribute to other foot problems such as sores, blisters and calluses. Corrective footwear and the use of splints are common treatments for hammertoes. In severe cases, surgery will likely be needed.
- Ingrown toenails. Ingrown toenails are those with edges growing into the skin. Ingrown toenails often result in pain, swelling, pressure and drainage. They also can quickly become infected. Improperly trimmed toenails, intense physical activity such as running or walking, pressure of ill-fitting shoes and the constant crowding of toes are the most common causes of ingrown toenails. Prescription medication, properly trimmed toenails and surgery are common treatments for ingrown toenails.
- Plantar Warts. Plantar warts are painful calluses usually on the balls of the feet or heels. These warts are caused by a virus.