What is Diabetic Foot Disease ?

Many people with diabetes do not know why looking after their feet is important. Understanding how and why foot problems can develop will help you take better care of your feet and prevent complications before they develop.

How Can Diabetes Affect The Feet ?

The presence of high blood glucose levels can cause damage to the nerves and blood vessels in your feet. This causes two problems :

Diabetic Neuropathy

Uncontrolled diabetes can damage the nerves to the feet. This is often called neuropathy. Changes to the nerves can cause:

  • Numbness- the sensation to the feet is reduced so you may not know if you have damaged your feet.
  • Pins & Needles or Tingling of the lower lower legs or feet. This can be a constant feeling and can be severe enough to disturb sleep.
  • Pain- sometimes nerve damage can give you constant burning or shooting pains in the lower leg and feet. The skin can feel hypersensitive to clothes or bed sheets.
  • Loss of Proprioception- this means you may lose the sense of where your feet and legs are positioned in relation to the rest of the body. This can lead to altered gait, balance problems and falls.
  • Reduced Sweating – this can lead to dry skin which can crack easily.
  • Changes in the shape of the feet
  • Hard Skin- Constant pressure on your feet can cause the skin to harden. The hard skin is often called callus.


Peripheral Vascular Disease

Diabetes can also damage the vessels to the feet. High blood sugar levels can harden and narrow the vessels reducing   blood flow  (circulation) to the lower legs and feet. This is often called peripheral vascular disease and can  lead to the following main problems:

  • Cold pale feet
  • Smooth shiny skin
  • Changes in skin color
  • Pain – which is typically worse at night when lying down and improves when you dangle the feet out of bed
  • Calf Pain on walking – termed intermittent claudication
  • Foot Ulcers
  • Poor or delayed wound healing.



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