What happens to your feet and toe when you have diabetes?

Diabetes is one of the fatal diseases affecting a major chunk of the population of every country. People with diabetes are prone to serious complications such as diabetic neuropathy, kidney disease (nephropathy), high blood pressure, foot and toe complications etc. Diabetics usually have high blood sugar or high blood glucose level. If the blood glucose level is not controlled well for longer, it may lead to serious complications to your feet and toe.

So, it is a matter of utmost importance that you monitor what happens to your feet and toe when you have diabetes. Foot pain and foot ulcers are serious complications a diabetic can develop over time. In this article, we shall discuss the foot and toe-related complications in diabetes or in other words what happens to your feet and toe when you have diabetes.


Why do diabetics have feet problems?

 People with diabetes face two problems which will adversely affect the lower extremities such as foot, toe, and legs. The two problems are:

  1. Diabetic neuropathy
  2. Peripheral vascular diseases


Diabetic neuropathy: Uncontrolled blood sugar for a prolonged period of time in type 1 and type 2 diabetes causes severe damage to the nerves of extremities. Damage of nerves at the different part of the body shows different symptoms.

The damage of nerves in the extremities such as legs, foot, and the toe is called peripheral diabetic neuropathy. Because the nerves of the leg muscles are damaged, they will not function properly. This may cause you to feel tingling sensation, numbness or weakness in your feet, leg or toe. Diabetic neuropathy commonly causes foot ulcers.

Common Symptoms of diabetic neuropathy are as follows:

  • Extremities will be sensitive to touch
  • There will be no sense of touch
  • Lack of coordination while walking
  • Tenderness in the foot and toes.
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Indigestion
  • Muscle fatigue and muscle wasting
  • Erectile dysfunction in men
  • Dryness of the vagina in women


Peripheral vascular disease: One of the major consequence of uncontrolled blood sugar level is a peripheral vascular disease.

It is a medical condition of a lack of blood flow to the blood vessels away from the heart such as legs, arms, toes, hands etc. This happens usually due to damage or the blockage of the blood vessels away from the heart. When an infection does not heal due to lack of blood flow, it will result in an ulcer or gangrene.

Some symptoms of the peripheral vascular disease are:

  • Feeling of pain in extremities like legs, hand muscles as well as buttock.
  • Cold feet
  • Skin becomes red
  • Infection becomes a common issue
  • A wound in the extremities don’t heal


What happens to your feet and toe when you have diabetes?

 These are the various feet and toe problems that you may encounter if you have diabetes. Some of the feet and toe problems are discussed below:


Calluses are thickened hard skin in our feet and other extremities. There are various reasons for their development. However, in the case of diabetic peripheral neuropathy is the major cause of callus formation.

The nerves of the extremities are damaged causing unusual pressure on the legs. The unusual pressure on legs leads to keratinization and thickening of legs skins.

Athlete’s foot:

Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection which manifests as redness, itching and cracking of legs skin.

 Diabetics with athlete’s feet are more prone to infection in the legs due to lack of blood flow and poor immunity. This is a contagious disease which can transfer to another person upon touch.

People suffering from athlete’s foot should avoid exposure to the moist environment. Because the moist environment is favorable for fungal growth.


Similar to callus, corns are hard thickened dead skin on toes in the legs. Everyone can develop corns. However, people with diabetes are more prone to develop corns.

They develop over time when there is continuous friction against shoes or anything hard surface. Corns can go away on their own by addressing the cause of their development.

In the case of diabetics, maintaining a normal blood glucose reduce the chances of its occurrence.

 How to remove corns?

Corns can be easily removed by the following method:

  • Warm few liters of water.
  • Immerse the affected area in the warm water for at least 10 min or more till the corn is softened
  • Then rub a pumice stone over it to remove hard dead skin.
  • Repeat it daily till the corn is completely removed.


Diabetic blisters are spontaneous eruptions filled with sterile fluid. Blisters can happen to anyone, but, diabetics are more prone to blisters. It resembles physically blisters that arise due to burns.

It is always advisable for people with diabetes to wear well-fitted shoes. Otherwise, the friction of leg skin against the shoe may cause them blisters. Large blisters filled with clear liquid might be drained by the physician.

Candida Albicans, a fungus, commonly causes blisters in diabetics. Male diabetes patients are twice more prone to such blisters than female patients. The blood glucose level of the patient must be kept normal to avoid such blisters to happen.

Foot ulcers:

Foot ulcers are sore and wound developed usually in diabetes patients. It is always advisable for the patients with diabetes to wear well-fitted shoes. Otherwise, they may encounter such ulcers in the lower part of legs.

Signs of foot ulcers are:

  • Swelling, irritation, and discoloration of the wound
  • Feeling of warmth around the wound
  • Discharge from the wound that may stain your socks
  • Foul smelling discharge
  • Formation of eschar (black tissue) around the ulcer
  • When the wound on your feet is tender to touch
  • Gangrene, in other words, is tissue death due to infection


Poor blood circulation and damage to the nerves in legs and foot contribute to such ulcers. The blood glucose level must be kept in control with lifestyle changes or medicine in case of diabetics. Because such ulcers may not heal early in diabetics and may cause serious consequences leading to amputation of legs.


Bunions are bony bumps in the big tow. The bump is usually seen in the base if the big due to which the big toe align itself towards the second toe. Such an abnormal alignment of the leads to difficulty in walking, corns, and calluses.

This medical condition is not much serious. However, untreated bunions grow larger over time and give more pain. It is advisable to consult a doctor to fix it. Surgery is the only way to fix this condition.

Plantar warts:

The appearance of plantar warts is almost like calluses. You can see a small black spot or hole above plantar warts. They develop either singly or in groups. These warts develop on the heels or ball of the foot. In the case of plantar warts, a kind of virus infects the skin of the foot.

It is sometimes not possible to distinguish between plantar warts and a callus. So, it’s always helpful to consult a doctor when you can not identify what it is. The doctor will treat the condition by either removing it by surgery, salicylic acid application, burning or freezing. You can get over the counter medication as well, which includes salicylic acid topical spray. However, treatment by consulting a physician is the best option.

Ingrown toenails:

In the case of an Ingrown toenail, the edges of the nails grow into the skin next to the nails. Anyone can be affected by this condition. However, patients with diabetes and poor blood flow are more prone to ingrown toenails.

Ingrown toenail affects mostly the big toe. People with sweaty feet are more likely to get ingrown toenails.

Symptoms of ingrown toenails are:

  • You can feel tenderness and swollen skin next to the toenails
  • You feel pain upon application of pressure on the toe
  • Build up of fluid around your toe

You can treat an ingrown toenail at home. However, the complications are more serious. It is better to take an appointment with the doctor to treat such a condition.

Hammer’s toes:

The property of a toe is to point straight…  However, in the case of Hammer’s toe, the toe bends forward. The second and third toe of the feet is most likely to curl forward.

Anyone can get hammer toes due to arthritis or ill-fitted shoes. However, people with diabetes are more prone to develop hammer toe.

If you are diabetic, you should consider to keep your blood sugar level to normal and wear well-fitted shows to prevent such occurrence.

Fungal infections:

Fungal infections of nails are more common in diabetes patients. This cause discoloration of nails, and sometimes, the nail separates itself from the rest of the nail.

Fungus proliferates faster at dark, humid and warm conditions. Therefore, it is advisable for the patients to avoid such exposure to infected nail.


READ THIS ARTICLEHow Did Diabetics Manage Before Insulin Was Discovered?


The takeaway:

The nails, toe, and feet problems are commonly seen in diabetes patients. This includes fungal infections, hammer toes, ingrown toenails, plantar warts, calluses, corns, blisters, bunions, and foot ulcers etc.

The occurrence of these conditions is more in them due to nerve damage, poor blood circulation in the lower extremities and weak immunity. All these conditions can be well addressed if the blood glucose level of the patient is kept in control.

Take care of your foot, keep it clean and avoid wearing ill-fitted shoes. Moreover, you should avoid any exercise or activity that impart unusable pressure to your feet and toe. Because the feet and toe complications are more serious and sometimes need amputation of the legs.

You should consult a physician and take diabetes medications if the doctor prescribes it for you. Apart from this, you need to change your lifestyle and food habits to support your health.



Read this: regular headphone users must read this.