Diabetes Swollen Feet: Causes, 6 Powerful Ways to Manage it

Diabetes swollen feet is an excessive accumulation of fluid, it is also known as edema. Edema can be localized in any part of the body or it can be generalized. It often occurs either due to hormonal changes or sitting in one position after eating a salty meal. Diabetes can cause edema in the feet and ankles.


Diabetes is a chronic medical condition that results in a high level of blood sugar, due to little or no production of insulin. Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas. It helps our cells absorb glucose (sugar) from the food we eat, but when it is not available in sufficient amounts or available at all, glucose is then accumulated in the blood vessels.

If left untreated, high levels of glucose in the blood vessels can lead to damage to smaller blood vessels, and this consequently leads to poor blood circulation. When blood is not circulated properly, fluid gathers in certain parts of the body, such as the legs, feet, and ankles. However, this is just one-way diabetes can cause swollen feet.

Diabetes swollen feet
Diabetes swollen feet


The following are the causes of Diabetes Swollen Feet:

  • Obesity
  • Venous insufficiency
  • Heart problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Side effects from medication.

In very rare cases, swelling may be caused as a result of taking a large amount of insulin, or maybe an increased tendency of having a leaky capillary.

Also, diabetes if left untreated can result in damage to the nerves in your lower extremities and other parts of the body. Therefore, a diabetic might feel numb when there is a sprain, fracture, or a cut, hence making it difficult to detect any of these injuries. An untreated sprain or fracture can trigger swelling, and an untreated cut can get infected and swell.


Diabetes Swollen Feet can be managed as follows:

1. Use Compression Socks

Compression socks help to put the right amount of pressure that will help improve blood circulation in your feet and reduce swelling. These socks are available in different degrees of pressure, light, medium, and heavy. In wanting to see fast results, you may be tempted to start with a tight compression, however, it is important that you start with light compression and over time increase the compression if needed, because using a compression sock that is too tight can impede circulation, hence, increasing the swelling if not causing more damage.

Speak with your doctor to know which level is best suited for you. Compression socks are available in grocery stores, medical supply stores, or pharmacies. They are worn like regular socks, but be sure not to wear them over an open wound or sores

2. Elevate your Feet

Stacking pillows while you lie or sit down can help with elevating your feet. To reduce swelling on your feet you could try elevating your feet above heart level, as this can help in reducing fluid retention in the lower parts of your body, so instead of fluid accumulating in your feet, it returns toward your body. 

Using an ottoman can also help provide some relieves when you are sitting at a desk and can’t keep your feet above heart level. You could also try to do the Leg Up The Wall yoga pose. You do this by just lying on your back, with your legs resting against the wall, and your buttocks as close to the walls as possible. Hold the position for 5-10 minute

3. Regular Exercising

Exercising for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week helps to improve blood circulation, and hence, reduces swelling. Exercising is also helpful for weight management and lowering blood sugar levels.

4. Reduce Salt Intake

Generally, diabetics are advised to use little or no salt in preparing their meals, and just as stated earlier, eating salty foods can contribute to swelling. So instead of using salt to cook, you could use herbs such as garlic powder, oregano, thyme, or rosemary. But if you must use salt, speak with your doctor to know just how much salt you are allowed to eat daily

5. Stay Hydrated

If swelling is caused due to the accumulation of fluid, drinking more water then, seems counterproductive. But your body expels more fluid through urination when you drink more fluid, whereas when you are dehydrated, your body tends to hold onto extra water.

However, check with your doctor first to know if this will affect you in any way, because sometimes swelling is due to conditions such as liver problems and heart problems, and in such cases, your doctor might advise you to limit your fluid intake.

6. Use Magnesium Supplements

Like every supplement, check with your doctor first before using this. If you have a chronic kidney disease that is the underlying cause of your diabetes and swollen feet, supplementation may cause a buildup of magnesium in your blood, which can lead to muscle weakness and even cardiac arrest.

If you have spoken with your doctor and it is ok, then taking a magnesium supplement will help regulate nerve function and blood sugar levels. Sometimes, fluid retention can be a sign of magnesium deficiency.


Diabetes can lead to other foot problems. These are some of the common foot problems diabetics are at risk of having:

  • Hammertoes: This is a condition where a toe is bent because of weakened muscles. the weakened muscles make the tendons in your toes shorter, causing the toe to curl under your feet. This can be genetic or caused by shoes that are too short.
  • Callauses: Calluses are usually caused as a result of uneven weight distribution. It is a buildup of hard skin, usually on the underside of the foot.
  • Infected Nails: Diabetics sometimes notice the discoloration of their toenails, which may appear yellowish-brown or opaque. This is usually a result of fungus infecting the nail. Your doctor might prescribe an antifungal cream or even medications you can take orally and sometimes may have to remove the damaged nail.
  • Plantar Warts: Plantar warts look like calluses. They are caused by a virus that affects the outer layer of the skin on the soles of the feet. They appear to have a small tiny black pinhole in the center and are usually painful. They may grow singly or in clusters. You can see your doctor about this as there are several ways it can be removed.


  • Change in skin color 
  • Swelling in foot or ankle
  • Corns or calluses
  • Leg pains
  • Open sores in the feet that are slow to heal
  • Ingrown toenail
  • Dry cracks around the heel of the feet


The following Complications can Arise from Diabetes Swollen Feet

  1. Abscess: Because of damaged nerves caused by diabetes, diabetics do not know when they have a foot injury until it gets infected. Sometimes this infection creates a pocket of pus known as an abscess. Treatment often involves draining the abscess, which will require the removal of some bones or tissues.
  2. Gangrene: Diabetes affects the blood vessels that supply to the toes, and this leads to the death of the tissues in the toes. Treatment is usually oxygen therapy or surgery, to remove the affected area. 
  1. Amputation: Diabetes creates problems with blood flow and nerve functions, making it likely for diabetics not to notice they have a foot injury until infection sets in. when an infection cannot be treated, an abscess develops, and the low blood supply will lead to gangrene, and often, an amputation is the best treatment.


Diabetics can cut their nails as regular toenail clipping can help in preventing ingrown nails, discomfort, and infection. However, great care has to be taken when cutting the toenails of diabetics, as the slightest mistake could lead to tearing and fraying of the nail which can lead to further complications such as an infection that can lead to an abscess.


Diabetics run the risk of having an infection when they soak their feet, especially if their skin begins to break down. Also, if your nerves are damaged as a result of diabetes, you risk burning your skin since you can’t feel if the water is too hot.


Metformin is an oral tablet prescribed to diabetics as it is used to improve blood sugar control in adults with Type 2 diabetes. One of its common side effects is swelling in the legs, ankles, or feet, along with diarrhea, nausea, headache, and weight gain.


The lack of blood supply due to damaged blood vessels can lead to the accumulation of fluids in the feet. Diabetes can lead to swollen feet, however, different approaches can help manage this swelling. There are also various ways diabetes can affect the feet apart from swelling, and if not treated on time, could lead to certain complications.

Diabetics should make foot care an essential part of their daily self-care routine because they could easily have a complication before they realize it.

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