Diabetic Foot: Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

Most carbohydrates are converted to glucose and rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream when you eat. An increase in blood sugar causes the pancreas to produce and secrete the hormone insulin to regulate blood sugar in the normal range.

Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a condition in which the blood glucose levels are abnormally high because the body is either not producing enough insulin or unable to use the insulin produced.

Typically, blood sugar rises post-meal and drops in 1 to 2 hours, whereas the blood sugar levels in people with diabetes may remain elevated for several hours.

What is diabetic foot?

Diabetes mellitus is often associated with foot problems – such as diabetic foot – that can develop over time when the blood vessels and nerves are damaged by high blood sugar.

Diabetic neuropathy

  • Diabetes can reduce blood supply to the feet and damage the nerves that carry sensation. This condition is known as diabetic neuropathy.
  • People with neuropathy are at a greater risk of developing potentially serious foot-related issues, such as ulcers, as they may lose the ability to perceive sensations.
  • When you lose sensation in your feet, you may not be able to feel a blister on your foot, which can lead to cuts and sores that can become infected.
  • On the other hand, inadequate blood supply to the legs and feet can make it difficult for a wound or an infection to heal. Sometimes, it can be a chronic infection that does not heal.

How is diabetic foot diagnosed?

Your doctor would first question your general health and symptoms before conducting a thorough physical examination. Diagnosis is made based on your medical history and physical examination of your feet.

Your doctor may also conduct several tests, including:

  • Monofilament test: To test the foot's sensitivity to touch
  • Pinprick test: To test if you can perceive pain
  • Ankle reflex: To check your reflexes
  • Doppler ultrasound: To check the blood flow in the feet

What can I do to protect my feet if I have diabetes?

People with diabetes are at increased risk of developing foot problems. In addition to regulating your blood sugar, it is essential to practise good foot care and inspect your feet daily to prevent complications.

  • Avoid walking barefoot.
  • Avoid using a heating pad or entering a hot bath without first testing the temperature.
  • Check your feet daily and look for changes such as redness, swelling, cuts, and blisters between and underneath the toes. Do not pop blisters or break the skin on your feet.
  • Use lukewarm water and mild soap to wash your feet daily. Thoroughly dry them, especially between the toes, by patting them gently with a clean towel.
  • Trim your toenails carefully and straight across. Avoid cutting them too short or down the sides. Avoid having your cuticles cut, either by yourself or by a manicurist. You should seek proper treatment if you have a callus or an ingrown toenail.
  • Wear clean, dry cotton socks that fit well. Remember to change your socks daily. Wear shoes that fit well, are not too tight and have a wide tow box. You may require custom-made shoes if you have foot deformities or ulcers. Additionally, shoe inserts can cushion your step and reduce the pressure on your soles.
  • Get regular foot examinations done by your doctor.
  • Quit smoking as it can worsen heart and circulation problems which can reduce blood flow to the feet.
  • Maintain good blood glucose levels to prevent diabetic foot. Proper management of blood glucose levels can decrease the likelihood of circulation problems and nerve damage, which often result in foot complications.

When should I visit the doctor for diabetic foot?

Visit your doctor immediately if you have diabetes mellitus and notice any of the following:

  • Numbness, tingling, pain in the feet
  • Diminished ability to feel heat, cold or pain
  • Cuts, blisters, sores, or bruises that do not heal
  • Pain, swelling or redness on your feet
  • Pus discharge or foul-smelling foot infection

Book an appointment at Pantai Hospitals

Serious foot complications due to diabetes are preventable in the vast majority of cases. The best way to prevent foot complications is to take care of them routinely at home and visit your doctor's appointments regularly.

A dedicated and expert team of Orthopaedic specialists at Pantai Hospital is available for consultation to provide the best care and assistance.

Get in touch with us to book an appointment today if you have concerns or questions regarding diabetic foot. We assure you the best possible care tailored to your specific needs.

Pantai Hospital has been accredited by the Malaysian Society for Quality in Health (MSQH) for its commitment to patient safety and service quality.

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