4 Common Questions About Diabetes and Feet

Type 2 diabetes is a common disease in the United States. With type 2 diabetes, the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin to move glucose (sugar) into cells. When sugar doesn’t make it into cells, the cells become damaged and starved. As a result, people with type 2 diabetes are at increased risk for heart disease, stroke and foot problems. Below, we answer common questions our patients have about the impact of diabetes on their feet.

Diabetes and Feet

Why do people with diabetes have foot problems?

Nerves are a part of the nervous system. Nerves tell the body what to do, such as twitching a muscle or moving a limb. Additionally, nerves react to external stimuli, such as stubbing a toe or getting burnt. When people with diabetes have continually high blood sugar levels (an A1C above 7.0 mg/dL), their nerves are at risk of being damaged. This nerve damage is called diabetic neuropathy, which most commonly affects the lower legs and feet. 

People with diabetes and high blood sugar levels are also at increased risk for poor circulation. Circulation carries blood throughout the body. When nerves are damaged and circulation is poor, there’s an increased risk of infection. Because feet are tucked away in shoes and socks, people with diabetes experiencing nerve damage may not realize they have infections there until it’s too late. That’s why people with diabetes need to recognize the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy and take care of their feet.

What are the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy?

If you have nerve damage in your feet, the symptoms can include:

  • Loss of sense of touch in the feet.
  • Inability to feel heat or cold in the feet.
  • Burning, tingling and pain in the feet and lower legs.
  • Yellow, thick toenails.
  • Loss of hair on the feet.
  • Increased infections and abscesses on the feet.

How can people with diabetes prevent foot problems?

The best way to prevent diabetic neuropathy is to manage your blood sugar and keep your A1C at or below 7.0 mg/dL. If your A1C is too high, you can lower it by eating healthy foods, exercising regularly and consulting with your endocrinologist about changing how much medicine you take. 

Keeping Your Feet Healthy with Diabetes

Keep your feet healthy by checking them daily. Your first step to avoiding diabetic neuropathy and infections is to manage your blood sugar. You should also address cuts, redness, swelling and bruises. Make sure your shoes fit well and don’t cut off circulation. Stay active and stretch your legs and feet. Finally, keep your feet dry to avoid cracks that become infected. 

If you need additional support or have concerns about your feet, schedule an appointment with Dr. Fedorchak.