How can diabetes affect the feet?

Woman's leg hurts, pain in the heel, massage of female feet at home

Controlling diabetes and keeping your blood sugar in an acceptable range does more than help prevents strokes and heart attacks and stroke, but it also helps keep your feet in good shape.

The condition of diabetes occurs when the body’s system doesn’t make enough insulin or utilize insulin correctly, which causes blood sugar levels to go over the normal range. Inadequately controlled blood sugar levels could cause a decrease in blood flow to your feet, which can lead to serious problems.

Be aware of your foot health, which involves recognizing early warning signs of trouble and keeping good blood sugar levels to reduce the risk of complications.

Blood sugar levels are high and feet

A prolonged high blood sugar level can gradually harm your blood vessels, limiting blood flow to organs and the rest that comprises your entire body. Insufficient blood flow could cause stroke, heart disease kidney problems, even problems with vision.

A damaged blood vessel can also impact blood flow into your foot, which can cause various foot health problems.

1. Diabetic neuropathy

Based on the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionTrusted Source (CDC), approximately half of those with diabetes will develop a form of diabetic neuropathy, (or nerve damage). The damage can happen everywhere in the body but it usually affects the nerves of the feet as well as the legs.

Nerve damage can trigger an itch and painful feet. As the condition gets worse and you begin to lose sensation on your feet. This is when diabetic neuropathy turns risky.

A throbbing pain signals something isn’t quite right with the body. It may signal cuts, sores, or foot blisters. If you suffer from diabetic neuropathy and feel less comfortable on your feet any blister or cut may go unnoticed for longer periods of time. If you don’t seek timely treatment for these kinds of injuries, it is possible that you may be prone to infection.

2. Gangrene

Diabetic neuropathy may cause various complications. The reduced circulation of blood to your feet means that sores and infections may not heal as fast. Infections that do not heal could develop into gangrene which is the loss of tissue because of a lack of blood flow.

If gangrene begins to spread to other areas of the body, your doctor may need to amputate a foot, toe, or leg in order to stop its spreading.

3. Peripheral vascular disease

It can also lead to an underlying circulation disorder, known as a peripheral vascular disorder. The cause of this cardiovascular disorder is reduced blood flow to the feet and legs. The narrowing or blockage of blood vessels also limits blood flow.

The condition can affect any person, but the risk is more prevalent in diabetics, as blood vessel changes can hinder the flow of blood to be smooth. Additionally, high blood sugar levels can cause blood to thicken to the level that it is unable to flow as easily.

4. Charcot foot

Diabetes-related nerve damage can result in a very rare condition called Charcot’s foot. This is typically the case when someone suffers an injury, like fractures or sprains which is not noticed because of the loss of sensation due to peripheral neuropathy. If the patient walks on the injured foot, it results in injury to the bones.

The deformity is caused by joints becoming dislocated and then collapsing. It is common for the arch to collapse. can typically collapse too creating a roundness at the foot’s bottom.

In addition to foot deformity, Other signs of Charcot’s foot may include swelling, and your feet may appear red and warm to the touch.

A flat bottom on your feet can increase the chance of developing sores because of friction. If you suffer from diabetic neuropathy and you lose sensation on your feet, a sore that is open could be infected. The risk is for Amputation.

Treatment options

You can stay clear of serious complications with diabetes by seeing your doctor and receiving treatment before you develop ailments that affect your feet.

Diabetic neuropathy

Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure for diabetes-related neuropathy. However, you can take steps to stop the progress of the disease. The doctor is likely to prescribe painkillers to reduce the pain in your nerves.

For minor nerve pain, use over-the-counter medicines such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. For severe or moderate pain, prescription drugs such as antidepressants and antiseizure medicines can ease nerve pain and enhance the quality of life too.

A healthy weight and exercising regularly will also help to slow the development of neuropathy in diabetics.

Peripheral vascular disease

If you are diagnosed with peripheral vascular disease, your physician will recommend treatment to stop the progression of the disease and increase circulation.

Regular exercising, eating a healthy well-balanced diet, and losing weight will increase blood flow and stop smoking. Smoking reduces blood vessels.

Treatment may also include treatment to prevent blood clotting, decrease the cholesterol level, or decrease your blood pressure based on the cause that is causing an obstruction.

Good diabetes management & supplies, regular exercise, and a healthy diet–can also reduce symptoms of peripheral vascular disease.

In extreme cases, it is possible to require an angioplasty procedure to treat the peripheral vascular disorder. This procedure is surgical to unblock an artery that is blocked and to bring blood flow back.

Charcot foot and Gangrene

The treatment for Gangrene is based on antibiotics that destroy bacteria and stop an infection and surgical procedures to eliminate damaged tissue. Treatment for Charcot’s foot is the prevention of further deformities.

The use of a cast to stabilize the ankle and foot may slowly strengthen these bones similar to wearing custom-made footwear or braces. In the most severe cases, surgery is a possibility to in repairing the deformity.


One method to avoid problems with diabetes in the feet is to maintain your blood sugar levels within an acceptable range. Therefore, monitor your blood sugar frequently. Additionally, you should take your diabetes medications according to the directions. If you’re not able to manage your blood sugar levels consult your physician.

Other suggestions to avoid problems with feet include:

  • Be physically active and at least for 30 minutes on most days of the week.
  • Contact a nutritionist or certified diabetes teacher (CDE) for meal-planning assistance.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Maintain your cholesterol and blood pressure within healthy limits.
  • Maintain the weight of a healthy person.

Good foot hygiene techniques

While you should take steps to keep your blood sugar levels within an acceptable range, you must also take steps to ensure that your feet are in good health. Here’s how you can protect your feet when you have diabetes:

  • Check your feet every day and look for indications of injury, like burns, scrapes blisters, scratches, etc.
  • Wear suitable shoes to prevent blisters and injury.
  • Don’t walk barefoot.
  • Moisturize your feet daily.
  • Dry and wash your feet regularly.
  • Cut your toenails straight across in order to prevent nail growth that isn’t healthy.
  • Consult a doctor to get rid of calluses or corns (don’t attempt the work by yourself).
  • Make sure to treat cuts as soon as possible to prevent infections (clean cuts every day and apply antibiotic Ointment).

When should you see the doctor?

Certain foot problems caused by diabetes can be life-threatening and expose you to Amputation. Consult a doctor if are concerned or observe abnormal changes to your feet.

A minor problem such as cracks on the skin of your feet discolored nail polish, an athlete’s foot, or an ingrown nail could become very serious if untreated. Make sure to see your doctor if you have any scrapes or cuts that do not heal, to prevent foot infection.


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