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Diabetes: Treating Minor Foot Infections

Diabetes makes it harder for the body to heal. Even minor foot problems, like a blister, can become infected. If not treated, infections can spread and damage nearby tissues. You may need treatment in the hospital. Serious infections can result in loss of a foot. Quick care by your healthcare provider can help clear up infections and prevent serious problems.

Healthcare provider examining woman's foot.

Get treatment

If your healthcare provider finds a minor foot infection, you’ll be started on treatment. The goal is to heal the infected area and prevent spread of the infection.

  • Your provider will check and clean the infected part.

  • He or she will measure the length, width, and depth of the infected area. That way, your wound care team can tell if the wound is healing or getting larger from one visit to the next. 

  • Your provider may give you antibiotics to fight the infection. Take your antibiotic as instructed on the bottle. Take all the medicines you are given, even if the sore starts to look better. If you don’t, the infection will not go away and may spread.

  • You may be asked to keep the infected area dry.

  • You may be told to keep your feet raised or to limit walking. Swelling of the foot with fluid hampers wound healing.

  • Follow any instructions you are given about changing bandages or soaking your foot.

Follow-up care

When you have diabetes, a foot infection may take a long time to heal. That may even be the case if you take antibiotics or have other treatments. For best results, be sure to keep all your follow-up visits with your healthcare provider. He or she can then make sure you’re healing the right way.

When to call your healthcare provider

Check your feet every day. Use a mirror to look at the bottoms. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any open or infected areas on your feet. Watch for these signs of an infection:

  • Soreness

  • Redness

  • Warmth

  • Swelling

  • Drainage

Also call your healthcare provider if you have any of these:

  • Corns, calluses, or bunions on your feet

  • Swelling of feet or legs

  • An ingrown toenail

  • Itching or cracking between your toes

  • Constantly cold feet

  • Pain or cramps in your legs or feet while walking

  • Changes in skin color

Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Robert Hurd MD
Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2019
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