Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects how the body turns glucose into energy. The spikes in blood sugar levels can damage the nerves throughout the body. Foot health is one of the most affected by diabetes.
Diabetic neuropathy is a complication of diabetes, where significant damage is caused to the nerves in the extremities, like the legs and feet. The chronic disease usually affects sensation and wound-healing.
If you are diabetic, it is crucial to understand the impact of neuropathy on your feet and how to manage the condition. In this article, we’ll explore the causes of neuropathy, areas affected, signs, and what you can do to maintain optimal foot health.
Why and How Does Diabetes Cause Neuropathy?
Diabetic neuropathy occurs when the nerves responsible for receiving information from various parts of the body become damaged. When blood sugar levels remain high for an extended period, it can slowly destroy the walls of the nerves and interfere with their ability to send signals.
The peripheral nerves are usually responsible for controlling sensations and movement in the arms, legs, hands, and feet. The symptoms of diabetic neuropathy in the feet include:
- Numbness or a loss of sensation
- A burning or shooting type of pain
- A tingling sensation
Some people may experience mild symptoms from diabetic neuropathy, but there are many others who experience very painful and disabling symptoms. Other warning signs include skin changes on the feet and legs and wounds that take longer than usual to heal. You may also notice sudden changes in the shape of your feet or changes in the toenail structure.
While it may sound like you should just come to accept diabetic neuropathy as part of your condition, it is certainly not an inevitable problem. You can often prevent diabetic neuropathy or at least slow its progression.
What Increases the Risk for Peripheral Neuropathy?
Anyone with diabetes can develop neuropathy in the feet. Your chances increase with the following risk factors:
- Poor blood sugar control
- Kidney damage due to diabetes
- Being overweight or having a BMI (body mass index) of 25 or more
Complications that can arise from diabetic neuropathy include:
- Limb loss
- Digestive issues
- Sexual dysfunction
- Urinary incontinence
How Can Diabetic Foot Be Prevented?
Managing your blood sugar levels and taking care of your feet help prevent diabetic neuropathy and its complications.
Some of the things you can do are the following:
- For most patients with diabetes, the recommended A1C target is below 7%. Work with a healthcare provider on how you can reach your A1C goals. A healthy goal for most diabetics is between 80 and 130 mg/dL (4.4 and 7.2 mmol/L) before meals, and less than 180 mg/dL (10.0 mmol/L) two hours after meals.
- Practice good foot hygiene and schedule a foot exam with a podiatrist at least once a year. A thorough examination of your feet by a doctor can help prevent complications and ensures you receive individualized recommendations for proper foot care.
- Keep feet clean, dry, and moisturized. Protect your feet by wearing socks and supportive, well-fitting shoes.
- Inspect your feet daily for any changes. Look for broken skin and abnormal growths, which can quickly progress into complications.
Diabetic Foot Care in Bismarck, North Dakota
Experience the highest standard of diabetic foot care by choosing The Bone & Joint Center’s foot and ankle department. Our team is led by a board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon Dr. Chad B. Carlson, who has received advanced training in the management of all foot and ankle conditions.
Our goal is to provide personalized treatment and advanced therapies tailored to your specific needs. To schedule an appointment, call our office today at (701) 946-7400 / (866) 900-8650 or use our convenient online request form. We look forward to being your partner in managing your foot health.