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What Happens During a Diabetic Foot Exam?

By Kelly Ferguson
Updated May 17, 2024
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During a diabetic foot exam, the feet will be checked for a number of symptoms associated with diabetes, including calluses, infected wounds, and numbness. Also, if it is the first exam performed, the doctor will most likely educate the patient on how to perform daily at-home exams by him or herself. The doctor may also treat any visible issues that were found during the exam and ensure that the patient understands how to care for the wound and prevent further injuries.

When performing a diabetic foot exam, a doctor has various symptoms, and warning signs of symptoms that may manifest, that he or she is looking for. One sign of a problem is pain, tingling, or numbness in the feet. This is an indication of neuropathy, or nerve damage, which can have indirect but severe consequences. If nerve damage is severe enough that the patient’s foot is numb, he or she may not feel cuts or other wounds that could easily become infected due to other complications of diabetes.

A second thing doctors examine during a diabetic foot exam is skin temperature and color. Warm, reddened areas of skin may be indicative of an infection or a blister, corn, or callus developing. Cold, bluish skin is a sign of poor circulation. Blackened areas indicate necrotic tissue.

Corns, calluses, and blisters are further things to watch out for during a diabetic foot exam. Any of these, while hardly dangerous for a non-diabetic person, could potentially be very serious in a diabetic. These afflictions may develop into open sores which can quickly become severely infected.

Wounds, even simple cuts, small punctures, or ingrown toenails, can be very dangerous. Since a diabetic individual with neuropathy in the feet might not feel the injuries, they are likely to go unnoticed and therefore untreated. Diabetes, and the poor circulation that often results from it, impair the body’s ability to heal wounds and fight infection. When untreated wounds cannot heal and the body does not have the ability to fight developing infection, the infection rapidly worsens. If the infection becomes severe enough, amputation of the affected foot may be necessary.

Structural damage to the foot is another thing a doctor will check for during a diabetic foot exam. Sometimes, the bones and joints in the feet of diabetic patients warp and collapse. This is an especially dangerous condition for patients with neuropathy, who may keep walking on a fractured or collapsing foot, not realizing the extent of the injury. If this deformity becomes bad enough, it may necessitate amputation.

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