Dhiabetic foot infections are infections that can develop in the skin, muscles, or bones of the foot as a result of the nerve damage and poor circulation that is associated with diabetes.
People who have diabetes have a greater-than-average chance of developing foot infections. Because a person who has diabetes may not feel foot pain or discomfort, problems can remain undetected until fever, weakness, or other signs of systemic infection appear. As a result, even minor irritations occur more often, heal more slowly, and are more likely to result in serious health problems.
With diabetes, foot infections occur more frequently because the disease causes nervous system changes and poor circulation. Because the nerves that control sweating no longer work, the skin of the feet can become very dry and cracked, and calluses tend to occur more frequently and build up faster. If not trimmed regularly, these calluses can turn into open sores or ulcers. Because diabetic nerve damage can cause a loss of sensation (neuropathy), if the feet are not regularly inspected, an ulcer can quickly become infected and, if not treated, may result in the death of tissue (gangrene) or amputation.
The risk of infection is greatest for people who are over the age of 60 and for those who have one or more of the following:
poorly controlled diabetes
laser treatment for changes in the retina
kidney or vascular disease
loss of sensation (neuropathy)
Maureen Haggerty, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,