Diabetes and Dry Feet: Why Diabetes Causes Dry Feet and Other Foot Problems

Diabetes is a chronic disorder that affects how the body uses sugar, also called glucose. If you have diabetes, you…(continue reading)

Diabetes is a chronic disorder that affects how the body uses sugar, also called glucose. If you have diabetes, you may be wondering why your feet are always so dry and irritated. Diabetes can cause a variety of different problems with the feet, including dryness, cracking, and infection. In this article, we will discuss why diabetes causes dry feet and other foot-related problems and what you can do to prevent further damage.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes, also called diabetes mellitus, is a group of diseases that cause too much sugar in the blood which happens when the body can’t make or use insulin properly. Your body uses insulin to process glucose and without enough of it, glucose stays in your blood instead of going into your cells to give them energy. High glucose levels can lead to a number of different issues including cardiovascular disease, eye damage, kidney damage, high blood pressure, and even death.

There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults and occurs when the body does not produce insulin. Insulin therapy will be needed for the rest of your life either through insulin injections or an insulin pump. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. It usually develops in adulthood but is now being seen more frequently in children and adolescents. This form of diabetes occurs when the body does not use insulin properly or when there is not enough insulin produced by your pancreas. Gestational diabetes only happens during pregnancy and usually goes away after the baby is born. Women who have had gestational diabetes are at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes later on in life.

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

The main symptom of diabetes is high blood sugar levels. Other common symptoms can include frequent urination, extreme thirst or hunger, fatigue, weight loss, blurred vision, and slow-healing wounds. You may also run the risk of more frequent infections due to diabetes as well. If diabetes is not treated it can lead to a number of different complications including infections that can lead to amputation. If you have these symptoms and are not diagnosed with diabetes, please go to your doctor for medical care.

Why does diabetes cause dry feet?

One of the complications of diabetes is nerve damage, particularly in your extremities, which can cause problems with your feet. When you have diabetic nerve damage it is called diabetic neuropathy. If you have diabetic neuropathy, your damaged nerves may not send the signal to your brain to produce sweat in your feet. Without the normal sweat and oils that keep your skin moist, dry feet can lead to dry, cracked, peeling, or callused feet. If you have diabetes and are suffering from dry feet, please see your doctor or a foot specialist, also known as a podiatrist.

What complications can be caused by dry feet?

If diabetes is not properly managed it can lead to a number of different complications with one of the more common issues involving foot problems. Foot problems are more likely to occur in people with diabetes because of the poor circulation and nerve damage that can be caused by the disease. It can  create a number of different problems with your feet including dry skin, calluses, bunions, ingrown toenails, plantar warts, hammertoes, blisters, dry cracks, and fungal infections such as athlete’s foot. If these problems are not properly treated they can lead to more serious issues such as ulcers or amputations.

How do you treat dry feet that are caused by diabetes?

If you already have diabetes and are experiencing dry feet, the most common way to treat it is to use a moisturizer. A foot cream or lotion that contains urea will work great on your dry skin although you can talk to your doctor or foot doctor, for the best recommendations. Simply apply the cream or lotion to your feet after every time you wash them and this should help heal any dry skin issues. Please note that you should not use the cream or lotion between your toes as this can lead to infection.

What other problems can diabetes cause with my feet?

In addition to nerve damage, diabetes can also cause poor circulation. This means there is a weaker blood flow to the feet and they don’t get the oxygen and nutrients needed to stay healthy. Poor blood flow can lead to a number of different problems including risk of infection, a foot ulcer, and amputation.

Diabetic neuropathy can also cause a loss or lack of feeling in the feet which can lead to cuts and sores on the feet that go unnoticed and become infected. The loss of feeling, which is called sensory diabetic neuropathy, can make it difficult to walk properly which can lead to falls and further injury. Diabetic neuropathy is also a leading cause of amputations in diabetes patients.

Is there a way to prevent foot problems with diabetes?

The best way to prevent foot problems with diabetes is to keep your blood glucose levels under control and practice daily foot care. Prevention may be the best way to care for your feet and the most common ways to prevent foot problems with diabetes are to:

  • Check your feet every day for any cuts, sores, corns, calluses, or redness
  • Keep your feet clean by washing every day with lukewarm water, not hot water, and pat your skin dry with a towel, especially between the toes
  • Avoid soaking your feet as this can lead to more dryness
  • Always wear dry socks that wick moisture away from your feet as shoes without socks can cause a blister 
  • Wear comfortable shoes that fit properly and avoid high-heeled shoes
  • Trim your toenails regularly and, if you’re using a nail clipper, clip straight across with no rounded edge to avoid ingrown toenails while using a nail file to smooth any corners of toenails
  • Make sure there isn’t a foreign object in your shoes such as a rock
  • Not walk around barefoot or wear open-toed shoes
  • Stop smoking as this can affect your circulation
  • Use a pumice stone or emery board to smooth any corns or calluses
  • Put your feet up while sitting and avoid sitting with your legs crossed or in the same position for long periods of time
  • Exercise regularly to improve circulation

If you have diabetes, it is important to see a podiatrist regularly for a foot exam. Your feet are an important part of your body and if you have diabetes, it’s important to take care of them to prevent any serious problems. By following these tips, you can help keep your feet healthy and prevent any diabetes-related foot problems.

Summary

Diabetes is a serious disease that can cause a number of different medical problems, especially with your feet. These problems can be wide-ranging from calluses, bunions, and ingrown nails, to a fungal infection such as athlete’s foot. However, one of the most common conditions is dry feet which can be treated with a moisturizer after every time you wash them. These problems are usually caused by poor blood circulation and diabetic neuropathy. If these problems are not properly treated they can lead to more serious issues such as ulcers or amputations. The best way to prevent diabetic foot problems is to keep your blood sugar level under control and practice proper foot care as outlined by our preventative tips above. If you have any more questions please talk to your doctor, health care provider, or podiatrist to find the best treatment plan for you.

References and Sources:

American Diabetes Association 

Fact Checked and Editorial Process

Diabetic.org is devoted to producing expert and accurate articles and information for our readers by hiring experts, journalists, medical professionals, and our growing Diabetic.org community. We encourage you to read more about our content, editing, and fact checking methods here. This was fact checked by Erik Rivera and medically reviewed by Dr. Angel Rivera. 

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