Diabetes and your feet

People with diabetes are at greater risk of suffering foot problems. If left untreated, these problems can become serious and require hospital treatment. Understanding how to look after your feet is an essential part of diabetes management and staying well.

What’s the link?

Diabetes can cause a number of different health problems, but the increased risk to feet is sometimes overlooked.

Raised blood glucose levels may, over time, cause damage to the blood vessels and nerves in the legs and feet. This can result in loss of feeling, which means someone with diabetes may not feel an injury or notice changes in the condition of their feet.

Damage to the nerves and blood vessels can also cause reduced blood circulation, leading to pain in the feet and legs, slower wound healing, and the skin and nails on the feet becoming thin and dry.

Diabetic foot disease is the most common cause of hospital admissions for people with diabetes

Why should you pay attention to your feet?

Dry skin may crack, causing fissures (breaks in the skin)–this creates an entry point for bacteria, opening the door to infection

A callous foot

Dry skin can also build up to form callus (a thick and tough area of skin, which can cause problems under the skin which can’t be seen)

An amputated foot

Minor foot problems and injuries can worsen and lead to foot ulcers, which are a serious health problem. If left untreated, ulcers can get worse and in extreme cases may even lead to amputation.

Spotting and treating symptoms early reduces the chance of complications

Know your risk level

Ulcerated Foot / Foot Emergency
High
Moderate
Low

There are four levels of risk:

It is important that you know your risk level for developing foot problems so you can take steps to reduce your risk status and keep it low. If you don’t know your level of risk, ask your GP or practice nurse. You should have a foot check with your doctor or nurse at least once a year.

When was your last foot check?

Click on the tab that is appropriate for you

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Contact your GP or practice nurse to arrange a foot check as soon as possible. Make sure you know your risk status at the end of the foot check.

A female doctor checking feet

This means you should know your official risk status. If you do not know it, make another appointment for a foot check with your GP or practice nurse as soon as you can.

A male doctor checking feet

You need to have another foot check now. Contact your GP or practice nurse to arrange a foot check as soon as possible. Make sure you know your risk status at the end of the foot check.

If the condition of your feet changes at any time, do not wait for your annual foot check.
Make an appointment straightaway.

Reduce your risk

There are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing foot problems.

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Keep in good control of your diabetes

Keep in good control of your diabetes

Monitor your blood glucose levels and follow your treatment plan.

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Check your feet regularly

Check your feet regularly

Check your feet daily for open wounds, redness or swelling. If you notice anything, contact your GP or Practice Nurse as soon as possible.

Stay healthy
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Stay healthy

Stay healthy

Obesity, smoking and drug and alcohol misuse all increase your risk status for diabetic foot complications.

Routinely look after your feet
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Routinely look after your feet

Routinely look after your feet

Apply a moisturiser to your feet daily to prevent dry skin. For areas that become dry, hard or cracked ask your practice nurse or GP about using a urea-based emollient.

Changes can happen fast and are not always obvious. If your foot health changes in any way, make an appointment to see your doctor or nurse immediately.

Flexitol as part of your foot care routine

Emollients (moisturisers) are available to treat dry and cracked feet in people with diabetes. Some emollients contain urea, a substance that’s found naturally within the skin.

Emollients with urea can:

  • Quickly improve skin dryness

  • Maintain skin flexibility to prevent cracks and fissures

  • Reduce the build-up of thick skin and callus

  • Improve the skin's ability to be hydrated and stay hydrated

Flexitol is an emollient option which treats dry and cracked heels and feet with intensive, urea-based moisturisation. It can also be used regularly to keep otherwise healthy feet in good condition and stop the dry skin cycle.

Flexitol 25% Urea Heel Balm can be used to treat dry, cracked skin on the heels and feet, and Flexitol 10% Urea Cream can then maintain your skin once it is rehydrated.

Real-life example: Before and After

Foot before treatment Foot after treatment

These photographs show the feet of a 59-year-old man with diabetes, who came to his care team with dry skin and callus on his heels. After checking his feet, the care team prescribed him a 2-week course of Flexitol 25% Urea Heel Balm to treat the dry skin and callus. He applied the Heel Balm every day for 2 weeks and, as can be seen, his skin greatly improved. He was very pleased with the results and his care team instructed him to continue daily maintenance of his feet by applying 10% Urea Cream, to prevent the return of the dry skin.

Restoring the skin has reduced the opportunity for bacteria to enter and cause infection. Also, the treatment of callus reduces the pressure under the surface of the skin. This is important because pressure can cause damage under the skin surface, which can lead to ulcers.

Speak to your GP, Practice Nurse or Pharmacist about diabetes foot care with Flexitol.

Having seen the information on this website, are you more likely to speak to your GP or nurse about foot care and diabetes?