What to Expect During a Foot Exam

Questions and Tests for Diabetic Foot Problems

Regular foot examinations are a critical component of your health care if you live with diabetes. In addition to recommended annual foot exams by your healthcare provider (HCP), if you have a history of foot problems you may find it helpful to visit a podiatrist or other foot care specialist as frequently as every 1 to 3 months.

Here’s what you should expect during your next visit:

Are you due for a foot exam? (Photo:123rf)

Questions about Your General Foot History         

Your HCP or podiatrist will want to learn the types of foot problems and challenges you have encountered since your last visit. Some questions that may be asked include:

  • Do your feet tingle, itch, feel numb, feel abnormally cold or hot, or sweat profusely?
  • Are you using any foot creams or medications for ulcers, sores or other foot problems?
  • Do you have difficulty walking or standing for extended periods?
  • Are you using any foot creams or medications for ulcers, sores or other foot problems?
  • Do you smoke?

Physical Examination

A general inspection of your feet is the first part of the annual comprehensive foot exam. Your HCP will look for abnormalities in appearance. If you have noticed any changes in your feet, even if they seem minor, this is a great time to bring them up.

Your HCP or podiatrist will look for both skin changes and changes in your foot’s bone structure. Skin changes might include discoloration, thickened skin, cracking, dryness, sweating, calluses, or blisters. Bone structure changes might include hammertoes, claw toes, or Charcot’s foot, a condition that develops in people with diabetes nerve damage (neuropathy) in which the foot becomes red and swollen, the bones become weak and can lead to foot or ankle bone dislocations.

Neurological Examination

Because nerve damage is common in people with diabetes, the second part of an annual comprehensive foot exam includes tests to assess the nerve response in your feet. A number of techniques may be used to gauge nerve function. Alert your HCP if you experience any discomfort while these tests are being performed. These tests might include: 

  • Monofilament test: A thin, flexible instrument is pressed against different areas of the foot; people with nerve damage may not be able to feel the light pressure.
  • Ankle reflexes: Your doctor will have you kneel or rest on the exam table or other surface; a tendon hammer is used to gently strike the ankle and test for reflexes.
  • Vibration testing: Your doctor may use a tuning fork to gauge your ability to detect vibrations in the foot.
  • Pinprick tests: A small, disposable pin is stuck into the foot to determine your ability to perceive the prick.  It is very thin and should not hurt excessively.

Circulation Examination

The final part of a comprehensive foot exam are circulation tests to assess blood flow in the area. This may be done by checking for pulses in your feet, or using an Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI) test, which involves taking your blood pressure in your arms and ankles and comparing the readings.

Depending upon the results of these tests, specialized footweat may also be recommended, especially for those with severe neuropathy or foot deformities. Early detection of injuries, infections, nerve damage, and circulation problems can be critical in helping you prevent and treat further diabetes-related foot problems.

Updated on: August 14, 2019
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