Foot ulcers are a common complication of poorly controlled diabetes, forming as a result of skin tissue breaking down and exposing the layers underneath. They’re most common under your big toes and the balls of your feet, and they can affect your feet down to the bones.
All people with diabetes can develop foot ulcers and foot pain, but good foot care can help prevent them. Treatment for diabetic foot ulcers and foot pain varies depending on their causes. Discuss any foot pain or discomfort with your doctor to ensure it’s not a serious problem, as infected ulcers can result in amputation if neglected.
Diabetic ulcers are most commonly caused by:
- poor circulation
- high blood sugar (hyperglycemia)
- nerve damage
- irritated or wounded feet
Risk Factors for Diabetic Foot Ulcers
All people with diabetes are at risk for foot ulcers, which can have multiple causes. Some factors can increase the risk of foot ulcers, including:
- poorly fitted or poor quality shoes
- poor hygiene (not washing regularly or thoroughly)
- improper trimming of toenails
- alcohol consumption
- eye disease from diabetes
- heart disease
- kidney disease
- tobacco use (inhibits blood circulation)
- Diabetic foot ulcers are also most common in older men.
How can you prevent foot ulcers?
Here are some tips to preventing foot ulcers:
Watch your blood sugar. The best way to prevent diabetic foot ulcers is to keep your blood sugar levels under control. Uncontrolled glucose is often behind neuropathy, which causes loss of feeling in the feet and may allow a sore to go unnoticed. Maintaining normal glucose levels will also help any sores on the foot heal faster. This can help keep ulcers from developing.
Pay attention to your feet. Dr. Scott says it’s important to conduct daily foot inspections if you have diabetes. Catching a sore early can go a long way in preventing major problems. Can’t see the bottoms of your feet? Try this: Put a mirror on the floor and hold each foot over it. Or ask a family member to check all areas of your feet regularly.