People with diabetes are prone to foot problems that develop due to prolonged periods of high blood sugar levels. Diabetes can cause nerve damage in the feet.
Diabetic neuropathy and peripheral vascular disease are the two main foot problems that occur, and both can have serious complications.
These complications may lead to:
-Foot ulcers or wounds that do not heal
-Infections, including skin infections, bone infections and abscesses
-Gangrene, when an infection causes tissue death
Peripheral neuropathy is the most common type of diabetic neuropathy. It affects the feet and legs first, followed by the hands and arms.
Signs and symptoms of peripheral neuropathy are often worse at night, and may include:
-Numbness or reduced ability to feel pain or temperature changes
-Loss of sensation/ feeling
-Tingling or burning sensation
-Sharp pains or cramps
-Increased sensitivity to touch — for some people, even the weight of a duvet can be painful
-Loss of reflexes, especially in the ankle
-Loss of balance and coordination
-Serious foot problems, such as ulcers, infections, and bone and joint pain
Peripheral vascular disease:
Diabetes leads to changes in the blood vessels, including arteries. In peripheral vascular disease, fatty deposits block vessels beyond the brain and heart.
It tends to affect blood vessels leading to and from the extremities, such as the hands and feet, reducing blood flow to both.
Reduced blood flow can lead to pain, infection, and wounds that heal slowly. If a person develops a severe infection, a wound may never heal and this can lead to amputation.
Anyone who has been diagnosed with diabetes should have a diabetic assessment on their lower limbs at least once a year. This will investigate the blood flow (circulation) to the feet and the sensation in your feet. Depending on your results, your Podiatrist will be able to advise you how best to prevent any problems occurring. I have a blog post and video explaining what’s involved in a diabetic assessment- see ‘Testing Sensation & Circulation’ for more details.
Below are links to HSE leaflets which give useful tips on looking after your feet if you have diabetes:
Taking steps towards good Foot Care for at risk feet : Low Risk
Taking steps towards good Foot Care for at risk feet : Moderate Risk
Taking steps towards good Foot Care for at risk feet : High Risk