5 Symptoms Of Diabetic Foot + 9 Tips For (Medical) Treatment

Complications Of Type 2 Diabetes


Developing a diabetic foot can cause life-threatening situations that can lead to the loss of your arms and legs.

It is therefore vitally important to know the causes, symptoms, and consequences of diabetes feet.

That's why this article explains the 5 symptoms of a diabetic foot and what you should  do if you have them.


What is diabetic foot?

Type 2 diabetes is a disease with many symptoms. For example, people with diabetes have a greater chance of developing all kinds of skin diseases. Many people have trouble with their feet. This is commonly known as a 'diabetic foot.' Unfortunately, it is by no means a minor problem. It can quickly escalate into something bigger and much worse. That's why treatment should be started as soon as possible.

But how do you recognize diabetic feet, and when should you see a doctor or specialist?

In many patients, it usually starts with painful feet.

This can happen even if you have never been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes can damage your blood vessels and nerves.

As a result, blood flows poorly through your legs and feet .

This causes painful feet. And it will only get worse, eventually expressing itself in other symptoms and, in the final stages, resulting in possible amputation due to gangrene and necrosis.

If you suffer from diabetic feet, it's wise to go for a medical pedicure every month and get your feet checked.

As a diabetic patient, you should be able to recognize the signs of a diabetic foot and keep a constant lookout for them. In this way, if any of them appear, you can choose the appropriate treatment before its too late.

Purpose of this article

So, in this article, I will give you the 5 symptoms to look for in order to recognize the possible onset of diabetic feet.

Note: I will occasionally have to use some horrible looking images. In addition, I will give you tips for the effective and painless treatment of a diabetic foot.

Symptoms of diabetic feet

#1 Pain in the feet and legs

Pain in the feet is the last thing most of us want to experience. Yet this is one of the first symptoms of a diabetic foot.

Damage to the nerves can cause a burning pain. The skin becomes oversensitive and can barely tolerate anything. Even contact with socks, shoes, and bed sheets can hurt.

Pain can also occur due to the poor blood supply to the foot.

With type 2 diabetes mellitus, firstly, excess sugar blocks the small capillaries in the foot.

As a result, hardly any oxygen can be delivered to the tissues in the foot.

At the same time, the body is unable to get rid of metabolic waste products properly. This is mainly due to poor blood supply as a result of vascular claudication.

With vascular claudication, not enough oxygenated blood can get to the muscles. This lack of oxygen causes pain in the legs. The pain disappears temporarily with rest.

Vascular claudication

If you experience the symptoms of vascular claudication, as mentioned above, it is wise to go to the doctor right away. Chances are that you are suffering from a diabetic foot.

#2 Cold feet due to diabetic foot

Having cold feet is a common problem for women, at least with many women I know. Let's just call it a female thing. With diabetes, however, it affects men and women alike.

Cold feet are often caused by reduced blood circulation.

For example, the elderly can suffer from cold feet because their hearts are not as strong as they used to be.

Lack of leg movement can also result in poor circulation leading to cold feet.

Unfortunately, elderly people with diabetes do not move often. This results in reduced blood flow. This impedes circulation in the foot, which leads to cold feet.

Many patients with diabetes have problems with the nerves in their legs and feet. This can change the way the feet 'feel' things, which can also cause the sensation of cold feet.

#3 Red foot as a complication

A diabetic foot can suddenly become red, hot, and swollen. You might also feel a tingling sensation as if ants are crawling all over your foot. This is usually caused by an infection. Type 2 diabetics are more susceptible to skin infections.

This is purely due to poor blood circulation in the foot, which also prevents the body from eradicating the infection properly.

Besides an infection (or rash), a red, hot, swollen foot can also indicate a deformation called "Charcot foot". 

The foot is thick and partially misshapen. The foot may also be afflicted by multiple fractures resulting because of lack of feeling.

The broken bones put unwanted pressure on different areas of the foot.

This can easily develop into a deep ulcer with bacterial infections. If this is suspected, an emergency referral to the hospital is the right decision. You will probably be given antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin and clindamycin.

Diabetic charcot foot

Fortunately, this only occurs with a small proportion of diabetic patients. These patients often suffer from polyneuropathy, which means they can hardly feel anything in the foot anymore.

#4 No feeling in the feet

The longer you've been a diabetic patient, the more likely it is that you will develop a disorder in the nervous system of the foot.

The resulting damage to the nerves will lead to a lack of feeling in the feet that can go as far as total numbness. This is another example of neuropathy – damage to the nerves because they are clogged with sugars.

This damage occurs symmetrically and can crop up in places where you would normally wear a sock or stocking. In other words, the foot and lower leg.

When neuropathy occurs, you won't be able to feel temperature or pressure as well as you used to. In fact, you may not be able to feel anything at all.

Because of this, your feet will feel nothing when your shoes are too tight, when water is too hot, or when you have an open wound that needs urgent attention.

The efficiency of the surrounding muscles will also diminish.

This makes it easier to sprain your ankle or misjudge your steps. You won't notice or feel this either. These and many other things are what make a diabetic foot so dangerous.

But how do you notice these symptoms or complications?


  • You feel a sensation of pain
  • You have the feeling that you are walking on cotton
  • You have the feeling that your feet are on fire
  • You experience numbness in the big toe and foot
  • You experience a reduced strength in the feet

#5 Badly healing wounds with type 2 diabetes

The points above describe a number of symptoms that occur in the feet when someone has diabetes. The last point is actually a consequence of the things mentioned earlier. It's also the most dangerous as it can eventually lead to amputation of a toe or foot.

There are actually two major problems with wound healing if you have a diabetic foot:


Most diabetic patients don't feel their wounds 'developing.'  This is due to neuropathy, as I explained above.

When patients first notice a wound, they've often had it for quite a long time. Thus, the risk of infection is high.

Wounds that go unnoticed for a long period of time will become infected if they're not treated.


Diabetic wounds heal very badly. This is due to the reduced blood supply to the feet.

When the small blood vessels in the feet are clogged with sugars, oxygen is unable to reach the tissue of the wound.

This is necessary for the wound to heal. In addition, waste products cannot be carried out of the body. This is another reason wound healing is so much slower.

As a type 2 diabetes patient, it's a good idea to check your feet regularly or have them checked during medical pedicures or screenings. This way, you will notice a diabetic foot earlier and be able to treat it before irreversible damage occurs.

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Treatment of a diabetic foot

Diabetic patients who end up in the hospital with a foot wound, usually do so because they haven't noticed it until it's too late. This is because they no longer have any feeling in their feet. Ironically, the treatment of injured diabetic feet is, therefore, always painless. Which is perhaps the closest this blog will get to a silver lining.

#1 Treatment of wounds on a diabetic foot

Diabetic foot wounds can be divided into three categories:

  • Neuropathic wounds: caused by a disruption of the feeling in the foot (neuropathy).
  • Ischemic wounds: caused by a disturbance in the blood supply and a shortage of oxygen in the foot.
  • Neuro-ischemic wounds: arising from a combination of the previous two categories.

Watch out

When you have a wound on your foot, it is important to see a doctor. The doctor will usually then refer you to the hospital for treatment.

Do not attempt to be a doctor to yourself, this will only make things worse.

First of all, at the hospital, the wound will be checked to see whether it's infected. If it is, the infection will be treated first. Subsequently, the doctor will try to establish the cause of the wound and why it won't heal.

You will need optimal blood supply and sufficient relief from pressure and pain to make sure the diabetic foot doesn't get worse (or go into remission). In addition, it is important to keep the wound clean so that the risk of infection remains as low as possible.

foot ulcer picture

During treatment, dead tissue and excess fluids are removed, and the wound is cleaned with water or a salt water solution.

The wound is then covered with a moist sterile bandage in contact with the wound. Finally, a sterile layer of absorbent bandage is applied on top of this.

If the wound was caused by ischemia (disruption of blood supply), blood flow must be restored immediately

The wound is then treated in a sterile environment while being kept dry to reduce the risk of infection as much as possible. Once the correct blood supply has been restored to the diabetic foot, the wound can be treated in the normal way.

#2 Vascular treatment for diabetic feet

Foot injuries caused by ischemia must be treated first. You then have to check the blood supply to your feet. Why? Because many diabetes patients suffer from vascular diseases.

During the foot exam, the doctor or specialist will begin by asking you a few questions. For example:

  • Whether you suffer from vascular clogging.
  • Whether you have badly healing wounds.

Next, they will check whether or not they can feel the arteries in your legs and feet. When blood supply is healthy your doctor can easily feel your arteries beneath your skin. Additional exams, such as measuring the blood pressure of the ankle and comparing it with that of the arm, may also be deemed necessary. And lastly, you may also need to have an ultrasound examination, a CT scan, and an MRI.

Any deviations discovered will have to be treated.

An angiography, performed by a radiologist, is usually the best solution. Angiography uses x-rays to investigate the state of your blood vessels.

With this method, a catheter is inserted into the blood vessel of the groin.

And from there, it travels to its destination in the legs

Diabetic foot angiography

Contrast fluid is used to make the blood vessels in the legs and feet visibleOnce found, the deviation – which might be a clogged blood vessel, for example – can be rectified immediately. This method can restore the blood supply to the legs and feet.

#3 Pressure reduction in diabetic feet

Foot problems in diabetic patients can arise due to increased pressure. This pressure must be removed; otherwise, the chance of developing wounds is much higher. This process is called offloading.

The foot can come under pressure due to changes in its shape, for example, or if shoes don't fit properly. Pressure on the foot causes calluses on the various pressure points, and, in turn, these calluses increase the pressure even more. Thus making the condition of the foot even worse.

Calluses must, therefore, be removed regularly by a medical pedicurist or a care provider. In addition, existing shoes should be checked for pressure points. This is one of the biggest risk factors for the development of foot wounds.

The best way of reducing pressure

The most effective treatment against excessive pressure is to put a cast around the foot or have some protective medical footwear specially tailored for your foot. With acute infections, bed rest is necessary. Unfortunately, a diabetic foot wound can take from 4 to 12 weeks to heal, so the patient is confined to bed for a long time.

#4 Surgical procedure

There comes a time in the advanced stage of a diabetic foot when the wound is simply too far gone to heal at all, and the only option open is amputation.

On close examination of the foot, doctors may decide that minor surgery is sufficient. This is usually possible with wounds caused by recurring pressure or those at the tip of the toe. 

This is caused, for example, by hammer toes.

Wounds often develop due to a hammer-toe, a problem that can be solved by a small surgical procedure – as long as the blood supply is good.

The tendon causing the affected toe to bend is cut so that the toe will bend no longer. Surgeons may also remove the intermediate phalanx or extend the flexion tendon.

These minor operations are often performed in a (diabetic foot) clinic. After the procedure, a pressure bandage is applied, and you must not stand on the foot for 24 hours. This reduces the pressure on the tips of the toes and allows the wounds to heal better. They will also recur less frequently in the future.

If the wounds are at an advanced stage, amputation of a toe or part of the foot may be necessary. This is the very last step that is taken when wounds do not heal in a diabetic foot.

Prevention is better than cure

A diabetic foot and foot blisters/ulcers are preventable. But to achieve this, you have to take really good care of your feet. If you have any doubts at all about your condition, always call a doctor or specialist.

The do it yourself foot check checklist

Fortunately, there are several simple things you can do every day to look after your feet and avoid complications:

  • Daily foot inspection: check your feet daily. The top is easy to check, the bottom is more challenging but equally important. Use a mirror to inspect the underside of your feet, and don't forget to check between your toes. Scrutinize every square millimeter.
  • Do not walk barefoot: walking barefoot will increase the chance of getting wounds. By banging your feet against things or standing on sharp objects, you can get wounds without seeing or feeling them. Always wear slippers or shoes indoors.
  • Cut toenails straight and fairly short: Toenails that are too long can irritate and also damage other toes. But it is also important not to cut them too short, because this, in itself, can cause poorly healing wounds to arise.
  • Make sure your shoes don't pinch your feet or cause pressure points: it is important to wear the right shoes. As you have read in this article, your shoes must not pinch you anywhere. But it's hard to know whether they are pinching or not if you have little or no feeling in your feet. Fortunately, there are podiatrists who can check your shoes for fit and functionality.
  • Keep your blood sugar level as stable as possible if you have a diabetic foot: a stable blood sugar level is the best thing for your entire body, not only your feet. So keep your blood sugar level stable by eating healthy. Click here to learn how to do this.

Change your lifestyle before it's too late

This last point is particularly important when you have type 2 diabetes. In 95% of cases, people develop type 2 diabetes because of the unhealthy lifestyles they lead.

The good news is that this can be reversed. For this, you must be prepared to change your diet.

Diabetic feet can be prevented by healthy eating.

That's why I saved the best tip till last.

The worsening of your diabetic foot can be stopped to a certain extent. Or even completely reversed if you start taking care of it at an early stage. For someone who has a diabetic foot, it may sound like a fairy tale but it is really true.

The Diabetes-Free Secret

It has recently been discovered that it is possible to reverse type 2 diabetes. And everything you need to do this can be found in your local grocery store.

You can reverse type 2 with one powerful principle. It's something I call"The Diabetes-Free Secret."  I have written a number of pages about this secret that will change your life forever. You will learn:

  • Why you got type 2 diabetes
  • What mechanism you can use to reverse diabetes
  • The best tips to be diabetes-free within a few weeks

Enter your e-mail address below and I will send you the E-book for free.


Marloes Schuurman

PS: Do you suffer from a diabetic foot? What do you do to make it better? Leave a comment below

About the Author

Marloes Schuurman is a medical specialist and an expert in the field of type 2 diabetes.

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