Diabetic foot symptoms and treatment

Sep 3, 2023 | footcare blog

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects millions of people worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of people with diabetes has risen from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million.

In 2023 Diabetes UK:

“estimate that more than five million people in the UK are living with diabetes, which is an all-time high.”

The also state that:

“The NHS spends at least £10 billion a year on diabetes which is about 10% of its entire budget.”

“Almost 80% of the money the NHS spends on diabetes is on treating complications. In some hospitals over a quarter of beds are used by people with diabetes.”

The disease occurs when the body is unable to produce or use insulin effectively, leading to high blood sugar levels. Diabetes can lead to a range of complications, including nerve damage and poor circulation. Having diabetes means your at much greater risk of developing foot problems. If left untreated, these problems can lead to serious complications. In this blog post, we will discuss the symptoms of diabetic foot problems and the treatments available and how to avoid them.

Symptoms of Diabetic Foot Problems

As mentioned above, people with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing foot problems. Diabetic foot problems are caused by damage to the nerves and blood vessels that supply the feet. Diabetes UK lists 14 signs of serious foot problems:

  • tingling sensation or pins and needles (like numbness)
  • pain (burning)
  • a dull ache
  • shiny, smooth skin on your feet
  • hair loss on your legs and feet
  • loss of feeling in your feet or legs
  • swollen feet
  • your feet don’t sweat
  • wounds or sores that don’t heal
  • cramp in your calves when resting or walking.

And if you notice any of the following changes, they recommend you see your local foot team urgently:

  • changes in the colour and shape of your feet
  • cold or hot feet
  • blisters and cuts that you can see but don’t feel.
  • foul smell coming from an open wound

It is important to note that some people with diabetes may not experience any symptoms of foot problems. That’s why regular foot exams with a healthcare provider are essential for preventing complications.

What to do if you notice a problem

Diabetes affects the body’s ability to heal itself, so even a small cut or blister can turn into a serious infection. In severe cases, untreated diabetic foot problems can lead to amputation. That’s why it’s crucial for people with diabetes to pay close attention to their feet and seek medical attention if they notice any changes or symptoms.

If you notice a problem Diabetes UK suggest that you keep the weight off your feet and contact a healthcare professional, such as your local Health Care Professions Council (HCPC) Registered Podiatrist.

If any of the more urgent symptoms appear it’s imperative to contact your GP or local out-of-hours healthcare service or contact 111 in the UK.

Infections in the foot should be taken seriously and treated with antibiotics.

Treatment for Diabetic Foot Problems

The treatment for diabetic foot problems depends on the severity of the condition. In general, treatment may include:

At home treatments

  • Keeping blood sugar levels under control: High blood sugar levels can damage the nerves and blood vessels in the feet, leading to foot problems. Keeping blood sugar levels within a healthy range can help prevent or slow the progression of diabetic foot problems.
  • Wearing comfortable shoes that fit well: Ill-fitting shoes can cause pressure points that can lead to foot ulcers. Wearing comfortable, well-fitting shoes can help prevent foot problems.
  • Avoid walking barefoot as this increases the risk of injury to the feet, which could turn into an infection.
  • Daily foot care, including washing and moisturizing the feet: Daily foot care can help prevent foot problems. Washing the feet daily with warm water and mild soap, and moisturizing the feet with lotion can help prevent dry skin and cracking.

Treatment with a healthcare provider

  • Regular foot exams with a healthcare provider: Regular foot exams can help detect foot problems early, allowing for early intervention and treatment.
  • Treatment of any open sores or wounds: Open sores or wounds on the feet can lead to infection and other complications. It is important to treat any open sores or wounds promptly.
  • Antibiotics to treat infections: Infections in the feet can be serious and may require antibiotics to treat.
  • Surgery in severe cases: In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to treat foot problems such as foot ulcers or deformities.

Prevention is the key to diabetic foot health

Prevention is key when it comes to diabetic foot problems. Taking good care of your feet and managing your diabetes can help prevent complications. Here are some tips for taking care of your feet:

  • Wash your feet daily with warm water and mild soap.
  • Dry your feet thoroughly, especially between your toes.
  • Moisturize your feet daily with lotion, but avoid putting lotion between your toes.
  • Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes and socks.
  • Check your feet for cuts, sores, and other problems every day.
  • See a healthcare provider regularly for foot exams, your local Health Care Professions Council (HCPC) Registered Podiatrist should be the first port of call as they are experts in feet and can tell you if you need to take further action with another healthcare professional.


Diabetic foot problems are a serious complication of diabetes that can lead to serious complications if left untreated. If you have diabetes, it is important to take good care of your feet and see a healthcare provider regularly for foot exams. With proper care and treatment, you can reduce your risk of developing complications and maintain good foot health and getting regular checks at a podiatrist when you begin to notice symptoms that affect your feet. Remember, prevention is key!

Diabetic foot services in The Wirral

At Appleton footcare in The Wirral, we have extensive experience in treating low and high risk patients with diabetes. We will check your circulation, and sensations, as well as any nail cutting or callus/corn removal that’s needed. Your treatment will end with helpful guidance on keeping your feet healthy.

High risk patients

Alex Houghton profile image

Alex Houghton is a HPC registers podiatrist. Please request treatment by Alex if you an At Risk or High Risk individual.

Low risk patients

Andrew profile image

Andrew is a Foot Health Practitioner and specialises in treatment of low risk patients. During your treatment he is fully qualified to assess your feet and if necessary he will refer you to Alex as a HPC registered podiatrist.

Mobile podiatry services for treatment of diabetic foot in The Wirral

We understand that some people suffering from diabetic foot problems may be less mobile than others, so we also offer a helpful mobile podiatry service within the Wirral area, simply call 0151 677 4363 or 07939 558 305 to book a consultation.


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