Can Diabetes Make Your Feet Smell?

It’s no secret that diabetes can cause a variety of foot problems. From numbness and tingling to ulcers and infections, high blood sugar levels can wreak havoc on your feet. But can diabetes also make your feet smelly? The short answer is yes. Here’s a look at why diabetes can cause smelly feet and what you can do about it.

The Causes

There are a few reasons why diabetes can lead to smelly feet:

Poor circulation. High blood sugar damages blood vessels and nerves, including those in the feet and legs. This can restrict blood flow, preventing fresh, oxygenated blood from reaching tissues. When tissues become deprived of oxygen and nutrients, they can die and become prone to infection, producing odors.

Excess sweat. Diabetes hinders the body’s ability to perspire normally. This can make feet excessively sweaty, creating a warm, moist environment ideal for bacteria to thrive and produce foot odor.

Nerve damage. Neuropathy, a diabetes complication causing nerve damage, can cause numbness in the feet. Not being able to feel areas of the foot means you may be less likely to notice wounds or irritation. Bacteria can enter through cracks in dry, peeling skin and infect the foot.

Foot ulcers. These open sores commonly develop in diabetics when areas of the foot sustain damage unnoticed. Bacteria then invade the wound, multiplying and emitting odors as the skin infection festers. Poor blood flow prevents the body from healing ulcers quickly.

Fungal infections. Excess sweating coupled with poor circulation also raises the risk of fungal infections like athlete’s foot. The fungus can spread, inflaming and breaking down skin tissue, producing a distinctive odor.

Solutions for Smelly Diabetes Feet

If your feet start smelling foul, don’t ignore it. Smelly feet warrant medical attention in diabetics as they can indicate an underlying problem. To help combat odors and other diabetes foot problems, try these tactics:

  • Wash feet daily using gentle soap, and dry thoroughly, especially between the toes.
  • Apply foot powder and antifungal sprays or creams to help control moisture and reduce odor.
  • Wear clean, breathable socks and switch them daily.
  • Treat cuts, scrapes and blisters promptly to avoid infection.
  • Get properly fitting shoes that don’t rub or irritate your feet.
  • See your doctor right away for any wounds, swelling, color changes, odor or discomfort in the feet.

Catching and treating foot issues early is crucial for diabetics. Left unchecked, small problems can spiral into severe complications. Monitor your feet closely each day and work with your doctor to keep your diabetes under tight control. Keeping blood sugar levels in a healthy range can help preserve nerve and circulatory function, letting you keep your feet odor-free.