There are a wide range of side effects and symptoms that come with having diabetes. Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes (or develop gestational diabetes in pregnancy), recognizing and managing these symptoms can be a challenge. This is especially true when it comes to diabetic foot pain.
Below, we’ll take a look at what it’s like to live with diabetic foot pain from the causes to the symptoms as well as the importance of finding treatment. Read on to get more information and the answers to many questions about this serious and painful side effect of diabetes.
Reasons Behind Diabetic Foot Pain
Defined by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD), diabetes is a condition that happens when the body’s blood sugar (also known as glucose) levels are too high. In people without diabetes, the body regulates insulin through food intake in order to control the blood sugar levels. However, for people with diabetes, the body might produce too much, not enough, or it might not be able to utilize this hormone effectively.
As a result of this insulin imbalance, people with diabetes can face a variety of symptoms, including:
- Extreme thirst
- Frequent urination
- Dry skin
- Blurry vision
- Lowered immune system
- Numbness and tingling
- Slow-healing wounds
- Foot pain
This foot pain can be particularly concerning and hard to live with on a daily basis. But why exactly does diabetic foot pain occur? Well, there are a few reasons behind this symptom.
For starters, diabetes can lead to poor circulation throughout the body. This means that not enough oxygen reaches certain areas, like the feet, which can cause numbness and tingling. Having any type of numbness in the feet can be risky because it then becomes challenging to walk properly. This sometimes creates a domino-effect in which people injure their feet, which in turn leads to swelling, bruising, cuts, sores, and general pain.
On top of this, when blood sugar levels aren’t well managed, it can cause long-lasting nerve damage throughout the body. This is also known as diabetic neuropathy and it is extremely common for people with diabetes, impacting as many as half of those who are diagnosed.
Diabetic neuropathy is one of the leading reasons behind foot pain in people with diabetes. Unfortunately, nerve damage is usually irreversible. This is why it’s crucial to pay attention to any symptoms of diabetic foot pain that arise—if caught early enough, the right medications, therapies, and other interventions can help to stop the damage before it goes too far.
Symptoms of Diabetic Foot Pain
As expected, one of the most common symptoms of diabetic foot pain is recurring or persistent discomfort in this area of the body. Many people living with diabetes report swollen feet, aching feet, and damaged skin on the lower extremities. This can make it challenging to walk, move around, and enjoy hobbies.
Some people experience such severe foot pain as a result of diabetes that simply touching the skin of the feet feels excruciating. When the nerves are damaged, it can cause them to under- or over-react easily. Touching the impacted areas in somebody who is actively experiencing foot pain can be intolerable. This means that even just wearing shoes or socks can cause a lot of pain.
But not all people with diabetes or with diabetic foot pain can actually feel the affected areas at times. Numbness and tingling can also mask more concerning issues. As stated above, this is what makes it tricky to diagnose and therefore treat the pain before it causes permanent damage.
Other signs of diabetic foot pain would be:
- Weakened muscles
- Tightness in legs and feet
- “Rocker-bottom” feet
- Trouble sleeping
- Sores that do not heal
- Skin ailments (calluses, corns, etc.)
Treatment Options for Diabetic Foot Pain
When possible, treatment for diabetic foot pain should be preventative in nature, which means taking measures to protect your health before the problems arise. Some preventative steps to take each day would be:
- Washing your feet thoroughly each day
- Drying your feet completely after washing
- Wearing shoes and socks consistently
- Being cautious of how you trim your nails
- Eating a specialized diet for diabetes
- Avoiding over-the-counter foot remedies
- Staying clear of extreme temperatures (i.e., too hot, too cold, etc.)
- Checking your feet for sores, cuts, blisters, etc.
Additionally, having a medical professional look at your feet during wellness visits can be the best way to stay on top of your diabetic foot pain. You might have even seen signs at your doctor’s office that say to take off your shoes and socks if you have diabetes. This is because it’s extremely important to have a podiatrist or other doctor examine every inch of your feet to ensure that they are in good shape. Getting regular foot exams can often catch potential problems before they occur.
If you are already having symptoms of diabetic foot pain or the health complications that can come with it, it’s essential that you see a specialist or trusted health care team to come up with the best treatment option for you. Treatments for diabetic foot pain typically depend on the type of pain, source of the discomfort, and level of severity.
For example, some people who live with diabetic foot pain are able to manage their symptoms with physical therapy and low-impact exercises. But others need more acute medical attention, particularly if there are open wounds on the feet. Keeping the feet free of infection is one of the top priorities. Otherwise, it could lead to more drastic treatment interventions, such as surgery or even amputation.
Though this sounds quite frightening, it emphasizes the importance of early prevention of any concerns related to diabetes. Monitor your symptoms closely, follow up with your doctor as needed, and be sure to practice self-care routines to keep yourself moving forward.
Find Support for Diabetic Foot Pain
Living with any health condition can feel isolating. The physical toll of diabetic foot pain can be debilitating, of course, but so can the emotional aspect to it. Often, people with diabetes develop anxiety surrounding their foot pain, managing their health, and coping with other symptoms. They also wonder if they are alone in their struggle.
But the truth is that support is out there for people with diabetes. No matter your experiences with diabetic foot pain, sometimes just voicing your concerns to others who truly understand what it’s like to go through these health struggles can bring a lot of comfort.
If you are looking for a supportive network of people who understand you, the Pain Resource community is a great tool. Start by sharing your journey with diabetic foot pain today so that you can move one step closer toward relief.
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