Effects of diabetes
Diabetes may affect your feet in a number of ways. One of the early changes can be loss of sensation in your feet, often starting at the toes. This is known as peripheral neuropathy. Professional advice is to always wear shoes that fit properly. When buying new shoes, get your feet measured.
If you have diabetes, then it is important to have your feet regularly checked over by a footcare professional. If you would like to book an appointment with one of our friendly, knowledgeable podiatrists, please contact either of our clinics in Letchworth or Stevenage.
Risk of neuropathy
If you experience the loss of sensation within your feet, you may experience a cotton wool like feeling or numbness. This is called neuropathy. Your chances of losing feeling in your feet increases with the number of years that you have diabetes and research suggests that up to one in three people with diabetes have some loss of sensation (called neuropathy). The onset of neuropathy is gradual and often people who develop this complication are unaware of it in the beginning. Often it occurs between 7 and 10 years of having diabetes, although in some cases it can occur sooner where blood sugar levels have not been so well controlled.
If you have lost feeling in your feet then it is possible that you may unknowingly damage your feet. You may stand on sharp objects like a nail, piercing the skin even down to the bone without realising. If unnoticed and not treated appropriately this can have potentially serious consequences and could lead to an amputation. Such an outcome is less likely if you seek expert advice from your multi-disciplinary foot team.
This explains why your podiatrist checks your ability to feel pressures on the soles of your feet and toes every year. If you are forewarned that you have lost or are losing feeling then you will be able to reduce the risk of problems occurring by undertaking daily inspections of your feet and taking precautions such as not walking bare footed or sitting too close to fires.
Painful peripheral neuropathy
Occasionally people with loss of feeling can sense a burning pain in their feet. This can be severe and worse at night, they can find contact from socks and shoes can cause discomfort. This is called painful peripheral neuropathy. If you experience these symptoms it is advisable to consult your Diabetic Clinic or Podiatrist, since it is possible in many cases to alleviate the symptoms. Diabetes can also affect blood supply to and within your feet, this can delay healing and increase your risks of infection. Because the implications of poor blood supply can have serious consequences for your feet, your podiatrist will routinely screen your feet for signs of poor blood flow. If necessary you may be referred on to a Vascular Surgeon.
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes then it is possible that you could develop complications in your feet. For example, you are at 15 times increased risk of having a limb amputated. The risks of complications can be greatly reduced if you are able to bring your blood sugar levels under control. They are also reduced if blood pressure and cholesterol levels are monitored and controlled with medication if needed.
Smoking is also not a good idea as it has adverse effect upon blood supply to your feet. Find out more here.