People who have diabetes need to practice good blood sugar control and take care of their overall health to avoid some potentially serious complications that may stem from their conditions. Complications of diabetes can include a higher risk of developing heart disease, kidney damage, problems with eyesight and infections throughout the body, according to the Mayo Clinic. Nerve damage is another complication that is a very real possibility for diabetics, which can cause foot pain and other symptoms in some people.
Types of Foot Pain
Foot pain in diabetics can come from several sources. It is not unusual for people with diabetes to heal more slowly than people without the underlying medical condition, so any cuts, sores, blisters or other blemishes on the feet may cause more pain than normal during the healing process. People with foot issues of this kind need to take special care to keep their feet dry and sores covered to avoid developing infections. A more serious form of foot pain in diabetics is a type of nerve damage called neuropathy, more specifically peripheral neuropathy when the damage extends to the lower limbs. Peripheral neuropathy can be present not only in the feet, but also the arms and fingers, as stated by the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC).
Definition of Diabetic Neuropathy
Diabetic neuropathy is caused by poor management of blood glucose levels that are part of diabetes. The sometimes wildly fluctuating levels of uncontrolled blood sugar cause nerves throughout the body to function abnormally. The NDIC states that neuropathy in the feet is the most common form of nerve damage in diabetics, and an estimated 60 percent of diabetics feel pain and symptoms in their feet to some extent. Neuropathy is a progressive condition that can worsen over time and, in severe cases, may affect a person’s ability to walk.
Foot pain caused by neuropathy can manifest itself in many ways. A common symptom is burning or having a constant sensation of heat in the feet. Your feet may feel tingly or numb, and you may feel like your feet are covered (like wearing a sock) when you are barefoot. Different areas of the foot may be affected, from the toes to the sole of the foot, or the entire foot may have nerve damage. It’s important to check your feet visually for blisters, calluses and other abnormalities if you experience numbness as your main symptom of neuropathy, to avoid developing infections. Muscle weakness is another symptom that some people experience along with the pain of neuropathy.
Getting your blood sugar under control can help prevent the foot pain caused by diabetic neuropathy. Checking in with your doctor regularly, testing your blood sugar as directed and following a healthy diet are all ways in which you can prevent complications. Neuropathy is not reversible, but you can prevent further damage by taking care of your health.
Medication and exercises are two of the most effective treatments for neuropathy-related pain in the feet. Some people find a certain level of relief by taking antidepressant drugs, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Anticonvulsant medications are also prescribed to help keep severe symptoms at bay. Topical creams and lotions such as capsaicin may also be prescribed. Walking and getting regular exercise can diminish unpleasant foot symptoms in many people as well. Not all treatments work for all people, and it may take a certain amount of patience to find the combination of treatment that relieves each individual’s symptoms.