Diabetes and Athlete’s Foot: What a Podiatrist Needs You to Know

Having diabetes increases your risk of developing athlete’s foot. Here’s how to prevent it.

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If you have diabetes, you may be aware of how diabetic neuropathy can affect your feet. Diabetic neuropathy can cause numbness and other sensations in the feet and legs, which tends to mask any pain a person might feel from any cuts or sores they might have on the feet. If they’re not cared for properly, this can lead to infection.

This nerve damage from diabetes can increase your chances of developing certain foot problems, like athlete’s foot, a fungal infection that causes itching, burning, and cracked, scaly skin between your toes.

“When you have diabetes your immune system could be suppressed, which will increase the incidence of developing these types of infections,” says podiatrist William Spielfogel, DPM, chief of the division of podiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital. What’s more, people with diabetes tend to have poor blood flow, which can impact the body’s ability to heal wounds quickly, or even at all.

Managing your blood sugar and taking care of your feet properly are the most important steps you can take to prevent any foot problems that may develop with diabetes. 


Preventing Athlete’s Foot When You Have Diabetes

It’s important for anybody, not just a diabetic patient, to avoid walking in public places barefoot, like pools, gyms, and locker rooms, says Dr. Spielfogel.

“So if you’re in the gym or going to take a shower in a spa … you should be wearing flip flops, that’s probably the best prevention for athlete’s foot,” says Dr. Spielfogel.

It’s also important to dry your feet thoroughly after showering or bathing, especially between your toes. “Fungal infections like to live in dark, damp environments,” says Dr. Spielfogel. “So if your feet are wet and you put your socks and shoes on, it’s a good breeding ground for a fungal infection.”

If you do end up with athlete’s foot, be sure to get it treated immediately, especially if you have diabetes. In most cases athlete’s foot can be treated with over-the-counter antifungal creams, but prescription medicines may be needed for more serious infections. If the athlete’s foot doesn’t clear up after a couple of weeks, talk to your doctor.