An Ounce of Prevention Can Keep Your Feet Healthy for Life

High blood sugars common source of many issues

Joy Pape By Joy Pape, RN, BSN, CDE, WOCN, CFCN

We sure do take our feet for granted. That is, until we have diabetes or start having foot problems. Some people start hearing about the relationship of diabetes and feet problems the first time they are diagnosed. For others, it may be their feet that take them to their health care provider for help. No pun intended. Really, some people may have noticed a change in their feet – a sore that won't heal, pain, numbness, tingling, or even a change in the shape of their feet. They go to their health care provider for help with their feet and they are told they have diabetes, or elevated blood glucose (blood sugar).

For the most part, when foot problems occur related to diabetes, this is called peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy is nerve damage that affects the feet, legs, or hands. It can cause pain, numbness, or a tingling feeling in these areas.

Diabetes is the leading cause of amputations. Don't let this scare you. It doesn't have to happen to you. We at dLife want to help you understand some things that may be happening with your feet and ways to prevent problems so you can keep your feet healthy for life.

Elevated blood glucose can affect your feet in many ways. It can:

• damage your nerves, resulting in increased pain, decreased feeling or no feeling;
• affect the circulation to your feet causing pain and decreased healing;
• increase your chance for infection due to the effect on your blood cells, nerves, and circulation;
• cause stiff joints;
• and cause bone changes.

If untreated, these problems can cause only more problems. If treated, many problems can be prevented. Remember, the first and best step for preventing foot problems is diabetes management which starts with knowing what to do, then doing it. This includes understanding problems as they arise.

We receive a lot of questions from our dLife family regarding foot problems. We listen to you! I may not be able to respond personally to each question, but I will respond to groups of questions about the same subject.

One subject is pain. A lot of people ask about the pain they are experiencing. As mentioned above, long-term elevated blood glucose levels can affect your nerves and your circulation. Both your nerves and your circulation can be associated with pain, but for different reasons.

High blood glucose can damage your nerves causing a lot of problems, some of which are:

• Increased sensation, like when it bothers you if anything touches your skin;
• Pain;
• Decreased sensation – not being able to feel;
• A change in how your feet perspire – dry feet or "wet" feet;
• Changes in temperature;
• Changes in the shape of your foot.

High blood glucose levels can damage your circulation as well. The damage to the nerves works with your circulation to affect your feet also. The main concerns with high blood glucose and circulation are related to pain and decreased healing.

Knowing this, let's look at what many people want to know.

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Last Modified Date: July 08, 2013

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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by Brenda Bell
Many people say that depression is a side effect or complication of diabetes. Without discounting the association of the psychological condition with the physical one, I'm not convinced that our high and/or unstable glucose levels are directly responsible for that change in our mental state. My belief is that the unrelenting need for self-care, for following the sort of care schedules that can drive licensed, professional caregivers crazy, is what overwhelms us...
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