Thermal injuries can be caused by both heat and cold. Thermal burns caused by fire, steam, chemicals, hot liquids (grease), or sunburn of the face and hands are the most noticeable but thermal burns can also occur on the foot. Thermal burns to the bottom of the foot may be less common because most of the time our feet are protected by shoes but as the temperatures begin to rise we need to be aware of the risk of thermal burns due to walking barefoot on hot pavements and sandy beaches. According to a study at the UNLV School of Medicine pavement significantly hotter than the ambient temperature in direct sunlight and can cause second-degree burns within two seconds.
The intense summer sun can quickly heat hard surfaces like stone, concrete, asphalt, and even sand and for most of us the danger is minimal as we quickly jump to a cooler spot. But for those with diabetes a simple walk across a parking lot to the beach or pool without adequate foot protection can spell disaster in the form of blistering burns across the bottom of the foot. For diabetics (and those with poor sensation in their feet) these burns may not be felt at all, and the burnt and damaged tissue can quickly become infected and if unnoticed and untreated can become gangrenous leading to possible amputation.
Diabetic neuropathy, a type of nerve damage that can occur if you have diabetes, can seriously affect how one senses temperature. This sensory loss extends to the feet and even the hands, and makes it difficult to accurately judge the proper temperature from bath water to ground temperature. Diabetic neuropathy is a serious diabetic complication that affects as many as 50% of people with diabetes.