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Signs and Symptoms of a Diabetic Foot Ulcer

If you have diabetes, it is crucial that you take good care of your feet. Diabetes can lead to damaged nerves and poor circulation, both of which contribute to the formation of diabetic foot ulcers.

What is a Diabetic Foot Ulcer?

Diabetic foot ulcers are sores or wounds. Usually found on the bottom or side of the foot, diabetic foot ulcers can also appear on the ankle. They are quite common and considered a major complication of diabetes. Approximately 15% of people with diabetes will develop one of these difficult-to-treat wounds.

Though the wounds themselves may be quite minor, they can quickly develop into complicated sores that are difficult to heal. Diabetic foot ulcers can lead to a major infection, gangrene, and amputation.

Signs and Symptoms

Due to compromised circulation and nerve function, it is easy to miss a minor foot wound when you have diabetes. This is why we recommend that you examine your feet every day.

Signs and symptoms of diabetic foot ulcers can range from commonplace to alarming.

Corns, Blisters, Callouses

These are all common, usually minor results of friction and irritation. If you have diabetes, however, they can become diabetic foot ulcers. Slow healing and continued irritation can turn a minor inconvenience into a major complication.

Redness or Irritation

Similar to corns, blisters, and callouses, any form of irritation or redness may indicate friction that can lead to a wound. Friction and irritation eventually cause skin breaks that can quickly become foot ulcers.


Swelling can accompany redness and indicate that a wound is present. Even a very small wound causing swelling is a sign it is becoming a foot ulcer.


If you notice stains on your socks or shoes, check for a draining wound on your foot. The drainage might have a bad smell and can indicate the early stages of infection.

Pain or Firmness

A diabetic foot ulcer can be painful to touch, and the skin may feel warm and firm. Thickening of the skin near the wound accompanied by a burning or itching sensation is not uncommon.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that because a wound does not hurt that it isn’t a problem or isn’t becoming a foot ulcer. The nerve damage common with diabetes can keep you from feeling the pain that would otherwise alert you to a developing infection or serious wound.


You may find that the area around a developing diabetic foot ulcer is numb. Though peripheral neuropathy can decrease sensation in your feet, numbness is a sign that should be taken very seriously. It can indicate a serious complication.

Black Tissue

An alarming symptom of a diabetic foot ulcer is blackening tissue around a wound. This tissue forms because of a lack of adequate circulation.

Any foot wound is serious if you have diabetes. From the moment you notice signs of irritation you should be monitoring the area for broken skin and the formation of a wound. Talk to your doctor right away to avoid the serious complications that can arise from a diabetic foot ulcer.


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