How are foot problems treated in people with diabetes?

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Calluses occur more often and build up faster on the feet of people with diabetes. This is because there are high-pressure areas under the foot. Too much callus may mean that you will need therapeutic shoes and inserts. Calluses, if not trimmed, get very thick, break down and turn into ulcers (open sores). Never try to cut calluses or corns yourself—this can lead to ulcers and infection. Let your healthcare provider cut your calluses. Also, do not try to remove calluses and corns with chemical agents. These products can burn your skin. Using a pumice stone every day will help keep calluses under control. It is best to use the pumice stone on wet skin. Put on lotion right after you use the pumice stone.

Ulcers occur most often on the ball of the foot or on the bottom of the big toe. Ulcers on the sides of the foot are usually due to poorly fitting shoes. Remember, even though some ulcers do not hurt, every ulcer should be seen by your healthcare provider right away if you have diabetes. Neglecting ulcers can result in infections, which in turn can lead to loss of a limb.

What your healthcare provider will do varies with your ulcer. Your healthcare provider may take x-rays of your foot to make sure the bone is not infected. The healthcare provider may clean out any dead and infected tissue. You may need to go into the hospital for this. Also, the healthcare provider may culture the wound to find out what type of infection you have, and which antibiotic will work best.

Keeping off your feet is very important. Walking on an ulcer can make it get larger and force the infection deeper into your foot. Your healthcare provider may put a special shoe, brace or cast on your foot to protect it. If your ulcer is not healing and your circulation is poor, your healthcare provider may need to refer you to a vascular surgeon. Good diabetes control is important. High blood glucose levels make it hard to fight infection. After the foot ulcer heals, treat your foot carefully. Scar tissue under the healed wound will break down easily. You may need to wear special shoes after the ulcer is healed to protect this area and to prevent the ulcer from returning.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.