Early Warning Signs of Diabetic Foot Ulcers

Early Warning Signs

Did you know that one in four people with diabetes will develop a foot ulcer? If you’re one of the millions of Americans living with diabetes, it’s important to be aware of the early warning signs of diabetic foot ulcers so you can get treatment before it becomes a bigger problem. This blog post will give you an overview of what diabetic foot ulcers are, early warning signs, and some tips on preventing them.

What is a Diabetic Foot Ulcer?

A diabetic foot ulcer is an open sore or wound that develops on the foot of a person with diabetes. About 60% of diabetics will develop neuropathy, which is damage to the nerves. (Dreyer, 2022). When neuropathy occurs in the feet, it can lead to decreased sensation. This means that a person with neuropathy may not feel pain or notice a wound on their foot until it becomes infected. If the infection becomes severe enough, then amputation may be necessary. Diabetic foot ulcers are the most common reason for hospitalization among patients with diabetes (Dreyer, 2022).

What causes diabetic foot ulcers? 

  • Elevated blood sugar levels – If your blood sugar levels are consistently high, the smaller vasculature (arteries and veins) will become damaged, which may lead to foot ulcers. 
  • Poor foot care – Ignoring early warning signs, wearing tight shoes, and inadequate foot care can increase your chances of developing a foot ulcer. 
  • Poor blood flow – If blood can’t reach an area in your foot, then injured tissue will not receive the oxygen, nutrients, or healing factors needed to heal the wound. 
  • Neuropathy – If you can’t feel when you’ve been injured, then a tiny blister or callous can quickly become a large wound that can become infected.

How to Prevent Diabetic Foot Ulcers?

The best way to prevent diabetic foot ulcers is to keep your blood sugar under control by adhering to a healthy diet, taking all of your medications as prescribed, and engaging in regular exercise. Visit your healthcare provider regularly so they can check your feet for any early signs of infection or injury. 

Here are some other tips for preventing diabetic foot ulcers:

  • Wash your feet every day with warm water and mild soap. Be sure to dry your feet well, especially between the toes. 
  • Inspect your feet daily for cuts, sores, redness, or swelling. Use a mirror if necessary. 
  • After a shower, when your nails are soft, trim your nails straight across and file down rough edges with an emery board or nail file. 
  • Wear shoes that fit well and protect your feet from injury. 
  • Avoid prolonged sitting, standing, or crossing your legs. 

What are the early warning signs of diabetic foot ulcers? 

During your daily foot care, look for early warning signs that you may develop a foot ulcer. The area may be red, tender, or even swollen. Sometimes, foot ulcers start as blisters or callouses. If you see this or any other problems with your feet, make an appointment with a podiatrist (a foot and ankle specialist) for further evaluation. 

How are Diabetic Foot Ulcers Treated?

The most important thing you can do if you have diabetes is to control your blood sugar levels. This will help prevent diabetic foot ulcers from developing in the first place. If you already have a foot ulcer, your doctor will clean the wound, instruct you on keeping it clean and dry, and prescribe medication to help prevent infection. Surgery may sometimes be necessary to remove dead tissue or amputate it. 

What should you do if you think you have a diabetic foot ulcer?

If you have any area on your foot that is red, swollen, painful, or developing an open wound, make an appointment with a podiatrist for further evaluation. Diabetic foot ulcers are serious complications of diabetes that can lead to hospitalization and lower limb amputation. However, they are preventable if you have good blood sugar control and see your healthcare provider regularly. You should also inspect your feet daily and take care of any minor problems immediately before they become serious. These tips can help prevent diabetic foot ulcers and keep your feet healthy!


  • Advancing Foot and Ankle Medicine and Surgery. (n.d.). Diabetic Wound Care | Foot Health | Patients | APMA.
  • American Podiatric Medical Association. Retrieved November 1, 2022, from https://www.apma.org/diabeticwoundcare
  • Dreyer, M. A. (2022, August 8). Diabetic Foot Ulcer – StatPearls. NCBI. Retrieved November 7, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537328/