More than 29 million people in the United States are living with diabetes. Whether it is Type 1 or Type 2, those who have diabetes should know that it is a manageable disease. However, having too much sugar, also known as glucose, in the blood for too long can lead to serious complications, including poor circulation and nerve damage.
While these complications can affect many parts of the body, the feet are especially at risk. Of the 29 million Americans with diabetes, 25 percent will develop foot problems related to the disease – causing pain, discomfort and the impaired ability to perform everyday tasks.
Diabetes can cause blood vessels in the foot and leg to narrow and harden, resulting in poor circulation. Poor circulation can lead to swelling, dryness, ulcers and infection. The lack of oxygen flowing to the foot makes it harder to fight infection.
Nerve Damage (Neuropathy)
Diabetic nerve damage can lessen the ability to feel pain and temperatures in your feet. As a result, cuts, scrapes, blisters and sores can develop on the feet and often go unnoticed due to the developed insensitivity. It also can lead to changes in the shape of the feet and toes including bunions and hammer toes. The most common symptom of neuropathy is a numbness or tingling sensation in the feet.
Other Common Foot Problems
Some of the most common foot problems for people with diabetes include:
- Dry and cracked skin
- Corns and calluses
- Blisters and ulcers
- Ingrown toenails
- Toenail fungal infections
All of these conditions can lead to infection. Signs of infection include redness, increasing pain, warm skin and pus. It is critical to call your health care provider if you have any of these symptoms with these conditions. Infections can lead to the development of gangrene and even amputation of the foot if untreated.