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Foot Care for People with Diabetes

Foot problems caused by diabetes

​​​It’s helpful to understand why you might have problems with your feet and what you can do about it. There are 2 conditions that you should know about that can cause foot problems when you have diabetes.

Loss of protective sensation (LOPS)

LOPS is when diabetes causes you to lose feeling (sensation) in your feet. When you lose feeling, you might not feel a pebble inside your shoe or a blister on your foot. You have no warning that your skin is being hurt. If you lose protective sensation you might not be able to feel pressure, pain, or changes in temperature. When this happens, you have a higher risk of foot problems, like sores (wounds) that can become infected.

Your healthcare provider will test the feeling in your feet and tell you the results.

If you are not able to see your healthcare provider in person, you can do the ​"Touch the toes test" in your home, which is a quick and easy test to assess if you have sensation in your feet. You will need someone to touch your toes and write down the results. Click here for step-by-step instructions: Touch-the-toes-test. You can also watch this video: Testing for sensitivity in your feet | Diabetes UK

If you don’t have feeling in your feet, you need to watch for:

  • Shoes that are too tight, or rub because they’re loose. They can cause pressure areas or blisters.
  • Stones or other objects in your shoes can also damage your skin and can turn into a wound.
  • Sharp objects on the floor or ground. If you step on a sharp object it may cause a wound. Wounds on your feet can be hard to heal.
  • Hot and cold temperatures that can cause a burn or frostbite. You can burn your feet if bath water is too hot. You can get frostbite if your feet are too cold in the winter.

If you don’t have feeling in your feet, you need to:

  • Check and protect your feet daily.
  • Always check for objects inside your shoes before you put them on. People find things in their shoes more often than you would think.
  • Wear shoes that fit well all the time, both inside and outside your home.
  • Get professional nail care.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD)

PAD is very common in people with diabetes. It decreases the blood flow (circulation) to your feet. This can lead to pain in your lower legs (claudication). It can cause slower healing of sores that can lead to foot ulcers. If you do get a foot ulcer, you could be at risk for an amputation.

Your healthcare provider can check the blood flow to your feet, find any circulation problems, and decide how serious they are. The less blood flow you have to your legs, the higher your risk for other problems.

Current as of: September 23, 2021

Author: Diabetes, Obesity, and Nutrition Strategic Clinical Network, Alberta Health Services