Diabetes Mellitus is a medical condition in which your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are consistently too high. Glucose is needed to supply the body with energy. Diabetes occurs when the body does not make any insulin or does not use enough of it. It is a life-long, chronic health condition that requires ongoing maintenance and monitoring....Learn more
Diabetes and your feet: Dealing with foot pain
Why A Diabetic Has Foot Problems
While diabetes is a condition that affects your blood glucose levels, it can also lead to many painful foot conditions. Your feet are arguably one of the most important parts of your daily functioning. You rely on your feet to walk, stand, run, and get from point A to point B. When your feet are numb, tingling, or in pain, it can make it difficult to go on with your day.
Approximately 50% of people with diabetes experience some type of foot pain. Foot pain accompanied by tingling and numbness is often due to poor circulation. Because the feet are the furthest from the heart, it is the last place to receive blood flow when circulation slows. Diabetes can also damage the nerves, affecting the body’s ability to send signals to the hands and feet.
While a loss of feeling might be a relief to some who are used to painful feet and legs, numbness can also be a warning sign that something is wrong. Pain is an important indicator, alerting you that you need to take action before symptoms worsen. The inability to feel pain, such as when you step on something sharp, or the change in temperature between extreme cold or hot, can lead to further foot problems.
Fortunately, taking steps to prevent diabetic foot pain, like choosing the right shoes or keeping up with podiatrist appointments, can improve the circulation and overall comfort of your feet.
Diabetic Neuropathy and Other Common Foot Problems
Diabetes and foot problems are strongly connected, with diabetic neuropathy being one of the most common disorders. Diabetic neuropathy also referred to as nerve pain, can lead to shooting pains, numbness, and tingling in the feet and legs. The increased blood glucose levels that diabetics experience can damage the nerves over time.
While diabetic neuropathy can affect any of your body's nerves, it most commonly affects the feet and legs. Diabetic nerve pain can also lead to other problems, like disruptions in your digestive or urinary tract system.
There are four types of diabetic neuropathy:
- Peripheral neuropathy: Peripheral neuropathy first impacts the feet and legs, sometimes moving to the arms and hands.
- Autonomic neuropathy: Autonomic neuropathy impacts the autonomic nervous system, including the heart, bladder, stomach, and intestines.
- Proximal neuropathy: Proximal neuropathy impacts the nerves in the hips, thighs, and in some cases, the abdomen and chest.
- Mononeuropathy: Mononeuropathy impacts a single nerve, usually the cranial or the peripheral nerve.
Diabetic neuropathy can also lead to muscle and joint pain. As the muscles get stiffer, and there is less blood flow, some people will adjust the way they walk or move, leading to further problems with the feet. Some people may experience bone spurs, tiny fractures, bunions, or in extreme cases, Charcot’s Foot.
Another condition that can occur is peripheral vascular disease. With peripheral vascular disease, fatty deposits block the blood vessels, preventing blood flow from moving from the brain to the heart. This blockage can also affect the feet, reducing overall blood flow.
Corrective shoes designed for the specific problems that diabetics commonly face can help prevent these types of painful foot conditions.
Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Foot Pain
The symptoms of diabetic foot pain include:
- Loss of feeling
- Shooting or radiating pain
- Frequent foot ulcers
- Increased sensitivity
- Foot cuts and wounds that will not heal
Diabetic neuropathy is most commonly felt in the feet and legs, but it can also affect the fingers, toes, and hands. Symptoms may begin mild, and then progress, especially if blood sugar levels are not controlled.
Minor cuts and sores on the feet that will not heal are a common symptom of diabetic foot problems. Poor circulation makes it difficult for oxygen and blood flow to make it to the wound, leading to the infection spreading to nearby body parts.
Diabetic foot pain can affect anyone with diabetes, but some categories tend to be at an increased risk. Individuals with unmanaged blood sugar levels, are over age 40, considered obese, and have high cholesterol, are at an increased risk of developing diabetic foot problems. Knowing when to see your doctor can help you identify common foot problems before they turn into serious complications
Ways to Treat Your Foot pain
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, frequent foot care should be a part of your treatment plan. If you have any of the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, it is important to schedule a visit with your physician as soon as possible. Your doctor will first complete a physical evaluation of your feet. They may also run additional tests to check your blood sugar levels, to ensure that your diabetes is being managed. A monofilament test can identify how much damage has been done to your nerves.
Ideally, you should continue to have your feet checked annually, or sooner if other problems arise. Depending on the extent of your foot pain, your doctor may also recommend that you visit with a podiatrist. A podiatrist is an expert in foot care, providing consultation for problems like hammertoes, bunions, corns, and wounds.
Unfortunately, nerve damage cannot be reversed. This is why it is so important to follow your doctor’s treatment plan to prevent further damage. You can also take certain precautions, like choosing well-fitted shoes that provide you with ample cushion and support, like the KURUSOLE, to prevent feet problems from getting worse.
Treatments for nerve pain include:
- Pain medications
- Anti-seizure medications
- Exercise and physical therapy
- Anti-inflammatory medications
- Antidepressant medications
- Lifestyle changes, including choosing the right shoes
In some cases, surgical treatment may be needed to remove dead tissue or to stop an infection from spreading. Sometimes, stents can be placed to encourage blood flow.
How to Prevent Diabetic Foot Problems
Prevention is key when dealing with diabetic foot pain, including diabetic neuropathy. If left untreated, diabetic foot problems can lead to serious complications, such as having to have a toe or part of the foot amputated. Fortunately, careful monitoring and controlling blood sugar levels can help you lower your chances of these complications.
Foot infections can be a problem with diabetic neuropathy. Bacterial infections can spread to other areas. Fungal and yeast infections can occur from athlete’s foot or toenail problems.
Diabetes that is not controlled can make it more difficult to fight off infections. In addition to managing your diabetes, good foot care is also important. Monitor your feet daily and discuss any concerns with your doctor.
Diabetic neuropathy also carries other risk complications, including hypoglycemia unawareness, frequent urinary tract infections, and digestive problems. Knowing when to seek medical care is an important part of prevention. While routine medical visits and proper foot care is important when dealing with diabetes and diabetic neuropathy, there are a few symptoms that indicate that it is time to make an appointment:
- An increase in pain or numbness
- A loss of feeling in your feet
- A change in the shape of your feet (Charcot’s Foot).
- Blisters or ulcers that will not heal
- Change in the color of your feet
- Symptoms of fungal infection
Because you cannot reverse nerve damage, proper prevention is crucial when dealing with diabetic foot pain. Good footwear is a great way to improve not only comfort when dealing with diabetic foot pain, but to also prevent complications, like foot deformities.Diabetic neuropathy can lead to any of the following:
- Bunions: Bunions occur when the big toe slants inwards.
- Cuts: Cuts on the feet are harder to heal with diabetic neuropathy.
- Blisters/ulcers: Foot blisters/ulcers can also be harder to heal.
- Corns: Corns can occur when rough tissue builds up on the toes from constant rubbing.
- Hammertoe: A hammertoe occurs when one of the toes buckles under, often leading to muscle weakness in the toes.
It is important to choose a pair of shoes that meet your individual foot needs, especially when dealing with diabetic neuropathy. The right pair of shoes can also help you keep up with physical therapy and exercise, which are important in controlling diabetes symptoms. With prevention, it is possible to have healthy feet, even with diabetes.
Healthy Foot Care and Natural Remedies
If you have diabetes and diabetic foot pain, good foot care is likely a part of your treatment plan. This includes things like:
- Check your feet daily
- Check your feet daily
- Wash your feet daily
- Avoid going barefoot, even when at home
- Invest in a good pair of shoes
- Keep up with your physician and podiatrist appointments
- Encourage blood flow by using socks and shoes that promote circulation
- Trim your toenail straight
- Stop smoking
- Stay active
Managing diabetic foot pain requires careful monitoring by your physician and taking steps to protect your own feet. With the right pair of shoes and knowledge of the most common diabetic foot conditions, you can effectively manage your symptoms while preventing them from getting worse.