Diabetes is the loss of normal control of blood sugar levels. There are multiple complications of diabetes which affect many systems and areas of the body, including your feet. In fact, foot complications result in more hospitalisations than any of the other complications to the eyes, kidneys or heart combined. We know that with regular checks and taking care of yourself, these complications can be dramatically reduced and your quality of life increased. Diabetes Australia is a great organisation if you're feeling stuck and need some advice.

Broadly, two problems can occur with your feet, with your vascular system (blood flow) and with your neurological system (sensation).  

Vascular (blood flow) Complications

Diabetes accelerates the development of small blockages in the arteries, leading to impaired circulation. As your feet are the furthest away from your heart, this can cause:

  • Increased risk of infection
  • Increased time to heal ulcers
  • Increased risk of gangrene

What are the symptoms?

  • Cold feet
  • Slow healing
  • Dry, scaly skin and hair loss
  • Painful calves when walking
  • Painful feet at night and at rest

Neurological (nerve) Complications

High blood sugar levels can result in damage to the nerves, called neuropathy. This can result in:

  • Loss of pain sensation
  • Loss of muscle function
  • Loss of position sense
  • Decreased amount of sweating

What are symptoms?

  • Numbness
  • Pins and needles
  • Sharp pains and aching
  • Inability to feel pressure, pain or temperature


  • 5% of people with diabetes will experience a foot ulcer
  • Nerve damage is present in 30% of people with diabetes and causes over 40% of ulcers
  • Gangrene is 17 times more common 2800 amputations (4% of the diabetes population) are performed each year on people with diabetes
  • Amputation is 15 times more common in people with diabetes
  • People with diabetes make up half of the lower limb amputations
  • The survival rate after 3 years of those who have undergone a lower limb amputation is 50%
  • A minor tissue injury that was uncared for was the pivotal cause in 86% of amputation cases
  • Foot care screening in podiatry clinics reduces the rates of amputation by 50%

What can I do to help?

You are the key to preventing any complications. As simple as it may sound - the goal is to be aware of your feet and protect them from injury - this what will save you from being a statistic:

  • Check your feet daily and if you find blisters, scratches clean and dress them. If you are worried, let us check them for you
  • Cut toenails straight across, cutting down the sides can cause ingrown toenails
  • If you find corns and callouses, make an appointment with us to fix it properly for you, corns and callous can turn into wounds if not addressed. Please don't treat them at home with sharp instruments and avoid using commercial corn plasters, they contain acid and can burn you creating a bigger problem
  • Use a moisturising cream daily on your feet (sorbolene or vitamin E cream) to avoid the skin cracking and bleeding, opening you up to an infection
  • Avoid talcum powder to absorb sweat - it clumps up making a perfect breeding ground for tinea - try methylated spirits instead
  • Never walk barefoot outside
  • Have shoes fitted properly in the afternoon when your feet are the biggest
  • Wear socks or stockings to prevent rubbing. Try to get natural fibres such as wool and cotton, they will breathe
  • Avoid extreme temperatures, (hot baths, heaters or fires) you may not realise that you are being burnt; or may not feel how cold your feet are getting
  • Visit your podiatrist yearly for a foot assessment to check your feeling and blood flow
  • Ask you Doctor and Endocrinologist to check your feet at your annual diabetes check up appointment

The below video from Diabetes Australia will help to also give some good tips to avoid complications arising.