Fairview Range Blog

Understanding Your Diabetes and Foot Care

Diabetes affects every aspect of your life, especially your feet. A small cut, an open sore, or even wearing improper footwear can pose serious health complications. That’s why it’s important to follow the guidelines put in place by your doctor and podiatrist, inspect your feet daily, and take conscious steps when taking care of your feet.

We spoke with Fairview Range’s Dr. Stacey Helland, DPM, to understand what qualifies as diabetic foot pain and the importance of foot care for a patient living with diabetes.

“Diabetic foot pain or diabetic nerve pain is a generalized term for diabetic neuropathy,” says Helland. “Many individuals with diabetes mellitus develop a burning, tingling or numbness sensation in the feet. This pain can occur even if the patient has no sensation in the foot. For example, a patient may not feel a tack puncturing the foot, but the same patient may feel constant burning in the foot. Neuropathy pain is often worse at night and can feel like electrical sensations in the feet. This pain can worsen as blood sugars are poorly controlled, but it can also occur in well-controlled diabetics.”

Fortunately, there are simple things a person living with diabetes can do to help reduce foot problems and pain.

“Check your feet every day! Diabetes can lead to the loss of feeling in the foot, and this sensation loss can occur very slowly,” explains Helland. “Even if you have full sensation in your feet, small items (a toothpick, an insulin needle, small rocks, etc.) can get stuck in the foot and cause wounds that get infected.”

Because of poor blood flow to the arms and legs, diabetic foot infections can pose serious health problems.

“Many first-time diabetic wounds start as a simple blisters or calluses that break through the skin, but because the individual cannot not feel his/her foot, it turns into a large infection,” says Helland. “If you cannot see your feet, check them in a mirror or have a family member check your feet every evening.”

Any time your foot pain is interfering with your daily activities, the pain should be evaluated. However, patients living with diabetes must take their foot care even more seriously, be able to identify the tell-tale signs of an infection, and pay close attention to any significant changes to their feet.

“If there is a new blister or wound, have your primary care provider or local podiatrist evaluate the wound as soon as possible,” stresses Helland. “If the wound looks infected (redness, swelling, pus, pain, fever, chills, nausea or vomiting), do not hesitate to go to the Emergency Department. A serious foot infection can lead to sepsis, loss of a limb or loss of life.

Maintaining regular podiatry appointments is crucial to a diabetic’s footcare routine.

All diabetics should have at least one podiatry appointment per year to have their sensation and blood flow evaluated in their feet to assess their risk for a foot ulceration,” clarifies Helland. “If more than one appointment per year is needed, this will be addressed and discussed at the appointment.”

If you have diabetic nerve pain (burning or tingling in your feet), especially if the pain is preventing sleep at night, discuss this pain with your primary care provider. Certain medications can sometimes be prescribed that can help decrease this pain. The more you educate yourself on your foot health and diabetes, the easier it will become to prevent serious problems. Remember, your podiatrist is available to answer any questions you may have. Based on your evaluation, you will be given the tools and resources needed to help establish a daily self-care routine for your feet—so you can get back to the activities you enjoy most.


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