Diabetes: Checking Your Feet

Overview

When you have diabetes, you'll need to check your feet every day.

  • Look at all areas of your feet, including between your toes.
  • Use a handheld mirror or a magnifying mirror attached to the bathroom wall near the baseboard to inspect your feet.
  • If you can't see well, have someone else use this checklist to examine your feet for you.

Using this checklist can help you remember to examine all areas of your feet.

Checklist for daily foot exams

Check your feet for:

What to do if you notice a problem

Skin color changes:

  • Red
  • Blue or black
  • Redness could mean irritation from shoes or overheating or could be an early sign of another problem. Do what you can to find the cause and fix it, such as wearing shoes that fit better.
  • Blue or black areas can mean bruising or blood flow problems. Call your doctor to report them.

Patches where hair is missing

Bald patches may mean irritation from shoes or a blood flow problem. Show the areas to your doctor during your next visit.

Blister

Try to discover the cause of the blister. Friction or rubbing against your skin causes blisters. You may need new shoes.

  • Do not break the blister or open it yourself. Leave the skin over the blister intact.
  • Cover the blister with a sterile, nonstick dressing and paper tape.
  • Call your doctor if any blister becomes red, oozes, or is not healing after 4 days.

Break in your skin

Check the underside of your toes and the area between the toes for breaks in the skin.

  • Gently wash the area with mild soap. Blot it dry and cover it with a sterile, nonstick dressing.
  • Call your doctor if any break in the skin becomes red, oozes, or is not healing after 4 days.

Calluses (hardened areas of skin) and corns (pressure injuries, usually found on or between toes)

Show the area to your doctor at your next visit. This is very important.

  • Do not use products sold in drugstores to remove corns, calluses, or other problems.
  • Do not use a pumice stone on calluses unless your doctor or foot doctor (podiatrist) shows you how to use it properly.
  • Do not cut, file, or do anything that may break the skin on your feet.

Peeling skin or tiny blisters between your toes or cracking and oozing of the skin

This may be athlete's foot. Treating athlete's foot early can prevent serious foot infections.

  • To prevent athlete's foot, wear shower shoes or bathing shoes when you use public showers or pools. Otherwise, keep feet dry.
  • Keep feet clean. Wear clean socks every day.
  • Do not treat athlete's foot without first seeing your doctor or podiatrist.

Moisture between your toes

Dry between your toes well. Moisture between your toes provides a good place for bacteria and fungi to grow, causing infection.

Numbness, burning, or "pins and needles" feeling

Call your doctor if you have new numbness or tingling in your feet that does not go away after changing position.

Sore (ulcer)

Call your doctor immediately. Do not try to treat a foot ulcer at home.

If you check your feet regularly, you usually will see a problem before it becomes an ulcer.

Ingrown toenail

Call your doctor for an appointment. Do not treat an ingrown toenail at home.

Credits

Current as of: July 28, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
David C.W. Lau MD, PhD, FRCPC - Endocrinology