A diabetic foot is a foot that exhibits any pathology that results directly from diabetes mellitus or any long-term (or “chronic”) complication of diabetes mellitus. Presence of several characteristic diabetic foot pathologies such as infection, diabetic foot ulcer and neuropathic osteoarthropathy is called diabetic foot syndrome.
Due to the peripheral nerve dysfunction associated with diabetes (diabetic neuropathy), patients have a reduced ability to feel pain. This means that minor injuries may remain undiscovered for a long while. People with diabetes are also at risk of developing a diabetic foot ulcer. Research estimates that the lifetime incidence of foot ulcers within the diabetic community is around 15% and may become as high as 25%.
In diabetes, peripheral nerve dysfunction can be combined with peripheral artery disease (PAD) causing poor blood circulation to the extremities (diabetic angiopathy). Around half of patients with a diabetic foot ulcer have co-existing PAD.
Where wounds take a long time to heal, infection may set in and lower limb amputation may be necessary. Foot infection is the most common cause of non-traumatic amputation in people with diabetes.