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9 Reasons For A Swollen Foot In A Diabetic

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

swollen foot in diabetic
A swollen foot of a diabetic patient due to infection

Diabetes, a chronic metabolic disorder affecting millions of people all around the world can impact different parts of the body in many ways. One of the ways that diabetes can change your feet is by causing a swollen foot, also known as edema or specifically peripheral edema. This is a common issue for those that are diabetic, unfortunately. A swollen foot not only be uncomfortable, or painful, but a swollen foot, especially in someone who is diabetic can be a sign of other underlying health problems.

Table of Contents:

Reasons For A Swollen Foot In A Diabetic Include:

1. Poor Circulation:

  • Diabetes can lead to damage of blood vessels, specifically, your veins, and make the circulation coming from your feet much less, this is known as Peripheral Vascular Disease or PVD.

  • Because the veins in someone with PVD have a harder time getting blood and other fluids back to the heart, they pool in the feet, causing swelling

2. Kidney Problems:

  • Diabetes can damage the kidneys, leading to a condition known as diabetic nephropathy.

  • When the kidneys can't filter waste and extra fluid from the blood, it can lead to increased fluid in the legs and feet, leading to a swollen foot or leg.

3. Congestive Heart Failure:

  • Congestive heart failure isn't caused by diabetes per se, but it is one of the diseases that can be seen alongside diabetes.

  • Because the heart isn't strong enough to pump blood properly, blood and fluid will accumulate in the feet and legs, causing a swollen foot or leg in a diabetic.

4. Lung Disease

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD can cause a swollen foot in a diabetic.

  • Similar to congestive heart failure or CHF, diabetes doesn't cause COPD per se, but the diseases commonly are seen alongside each other.

  • When fluid begins to back up in your lungs, it will back up in your legs and feet as well, leading to a swollen foot.

5. Medication Side Effects:

  • Some medications commonly used in people that have diabetes, specifically certain blood pressure medications can lead to a swollen foot.

6. Charcot

  • Charcot is caused by the combination of nerve damage to the feet, called peripheral neuropathy, and also sudden increased blood flow to the feet.

  • Charcot if not caught quickly and addressed can lead to complete collapse and deformity of the foot, also known as a rocker bottom foot.

  • The first sign of an active Charcot process is increased swelling or a swollen foot.

7. Infection

  • One sign of infection can be a new onset of a swollen foot.

8. Recent Travel

  • If you have taken a recent trip by car, bus, plane, or train, especially if that trip was longer than 4 hrs, there is a likelihood that your foot will be swollen.

9. Blood clot

  • Sometimes, certain heart conditions like atrial fibrillation or A-fib can lead to small blood clots traveling to the feet and getting lodged there. This can be very painful.

Symptoms of Swollen Foot In A Diabetic Include

swollen foot in diabetic
The swollen feet and legs of a patient with severe vascular disease

1. Skin Changes:

  • The skin over the swollen foot in a diabetic can start to change color. This can include red, brown, or purple to blue.

  • The skin also can look tight, stretched, or shiny.

2. Indentations or pitting

  • Pressing a finger into the swollen foot might leave a temporary indentation or pit due to the extra fluid.

3. Discomfort or Pain:

  • A swollen foot in a diabetic can lead to discomfort or even pain, making it much harder to do your everyday activities, or to even wear shoes.

4. Stiffness

  • A swollen foot can become stiff, and make it much harder to move your toes, ankles, or other parts of your foot.

Management and Prevention of A Swollen Foot In A Diabetic

While dealing with a swollen foot or feet can be frustrating, there are several tips that diabetic patients can use to manage the swelling:

1. Blood Sugar Control:

  • Keeping your blood sugar in a healthy range is crucial for preventing complications associated with diabetes like a swollen foot, neuropathy, PAD, or Charcot.

2. Healthy Diet:

  • Focusing on a healthy eating pattern rich in whole foods, natural protein sources like eggs, fish, and beef, and low in refined sugars and trans fats can help manage diabetes and reduce the risk of complications like a swollen foot.

3. Regular Exercise:

  • Engaging in regular physical activity and movement helps to improve blood circulation, by making specifically your calf muscles contract more.

  • This contraction of muscles helps the blood and fluid in your veins return to your heart.

  • Regular movement is key to preventing a swollen foot, or having a swollen foot get better.

  • Movement can range from daily walks to yoga, swimming, dancing, gym workouts, and more.

4. Compression Stockings:

  • Compression stockings or socks can help improve circulation and lower the amount of swelling in your foot or leg

  • For most people, the use of compression stockings is safe, but if you have been diagnosed with CHF or congestive heart failure, speak with your heart doctor before starting to wear any kind of compression on your legs.

  • This is because the extra fluid that has left your legs through wearing these compression stocks in someone with CHF can weaken their heart even more.

5. Elevating the Feet:

  • Elevating the legs and feet when sitting or lying down, and sleeping helps with fluid standing and reducing swelling.

6. Medication Management:

  • If certain medications you are on are causing a swollen foot, speak with your doctor to go over other options for managing your condition.

7. Regular Check-ups:

  • Someone who is diabetic individuals should be seeing their doctors regularly to be sure that kidney function and circulation are normal.

When to Seek Medical Attention For A Swollen Foot In A Diabetic

swollen foot in diabetic

Severe or sudden swelling should not be ignored. If any of these symptoms are present, seek care from a doctor immediately

1. Swelling that happens suddenly:

  • If the swelling in your foot happens suddenly, and especially if you're having pain, seek medical attention immediately.

2. Skin Changes:

  • Skin that becomes warm, red, or develops an infection should be examined by a doctor to rule out things like a blood clot or infection.

  • If you notice blisters forming on your legs or feet, or a certain kind of sore called an ulcer, which usually will drain fluid, seek medical attention immediately.

3. Difficulty breathing:

  • Swelling in a foot along with shortness of breath is a medical emergency.

Key Points

A swollen foot in a diabetic can be distressing, to say the least. On top of potentially being uncomfortable to downright painful, a swollen foot can make it hard if not impossible to wear certain shoes, or to do day-to-day activities. A swollen foot, especially one that is severe and happens suddenly should never be ignored. This can be a sign or symptom of a deeper issue that needs to be addressed.

Schedule Your Appointment At Direct Podiatry Arizona

Looking for a foot doctor in the Phoenix, AZ area? My name is Dr. Tarr, and I am the owner of Direct Podiatry Arizona in Tempe. To view my available appointment times, click here.

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