What are diabetic foot problems?

By Dr. Kelley Struble

There are many complications (problems) that can happen to the feet when a person is diagnosed with diabetes. These include problems with the nerves, problems with the blood vessels, and problems with healing.

Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage that is caused by diabetes, and it can cause numbness, tingling, and inability to feel heat, cold, or pain in the feet. It can lead to changes in the shape of the foot and toes (also called Charcot foot). Because of the nerve damage, people who have diabetic neuropathy can injure their feet and not realize it. These injuries can cause several different types of wounds, such as ulcers, cuts, blisters, and scrapes. Once these wounds occur, they can be slow to heal and can easily develop infections.

Circulation (or blood vessel) problems that are also caused by diabetes can lead to slow wound healing and infections. Infections become difficult to treat because antibiotics rely on the blood vessels to carry the antibiotic through the bloodstream to the feet and toes (where the infection is happening). It can sometimes take several weeks or months for these wounds to heal for these reasons.

Other common diabetic foot problems include fungal infections and development of corns and calluses on the feet and toes. Some people also notice loss of hair on their toes, feet, and the lower part of their legs.

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