What are the effects of diabetes on the feet?

Updated on 10 May 2023

What are the effects of diabetes on the feet?

Diabetes affects more than 1 in 10 Quebecers, according to the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec.

It is known to cause an array of problems like blindness and kidney disease, but diabetes is also responsible for half of all non-traumatic amputations.

Before reaching such serious complications, however, other conditions of the soles of the feet can serve as red flags.

Here are the main effects of diabetes on the feet.

Decreased blood flow

Diabetes significantly decreases blood flow.

This is due to the fact that high blood sugar can harden the arteries and thicken the capillary walls of the blood vessels.

As a result, reduced blood flow in the feet can cause:

  • Significant cooling of the lower extremities;
  • Poorly healing wounds;
  • Congestion of the blood vessels;
  • Intermittent calf pain.

Loss of sensitivity (peripheral neuropathy)

The loss of sensitivity in the extremities is an insidious effect of diabetes, partly caused by nerve damage.

Peripheral neuropathy is a problematic development in diabetes because it makes recognizing foot injuries difficult.

Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy associated with diabetes include:

  • A tingling or burning sensation;
  • A complete loss of sensitivity to temperature changes;
  • Numbness in the feet and toes;
  • Loss of overall sensitivity in the feet.

When combined with poor circulation that reduces the body’s ability to heal, peripheral neuropathy can be catastrophic when an injury occurs.
Therefore, if you have diabetes, it is important to regularly check the soles of your feet for injuries that may have gone unnoticed.

Reduced natural hydration

Plantar dryness is also a problem that people with diabetic feet have to deal with.

It usually occurs in response to neuropathy.

Seeing as it directly affects the nerves of the foot, the body’s natural production of sweat and sebum, which normally moisturize the skin, is thus significantly reduced.

For an already quickly inflamed foot, this drying out of the skin can present itself as a risk factor that should not be neglected.

The lack of plantar moisture can lead to problems such as:

We strongly recommend consulting a podiatrist to perform the necessary foot care with this type of lesion.

Foot deformities

Just like plantar dryness, foot deformity is also due to peripheral neuropathy.

The lack of sensation contributes to atrophy of the musculoskeletal structures of the foot.

When the muscles of the toes and feet remain sufficiently unused, it paves the way to the following pathologies:

These plantar deformities can affect the way weight is distributed over the surface of the foot and lead to the development of pressure points.

In order to counter this, the podiatrist may recommend custom-made foot orthoses.

A similar measure will also help prevent the occurrence of skin lesions or other biomechanical problems.

Avoid foot complications due to diabetes

The effects of diabetes on the feet can be largely reduced by preventive measures.

Therefore, you should consider adopting the following habits:

  • Wear shoes that fit the measurements of your foot;
  • Avoid walking barefoot;
  • Rigorously care for toenails.

If it’s already important to maintain good hygiene in healthy feet, the cleanliness of the diabetic foot is absolutely crucial.

It is strongly recommended to check the soles of the feet on a daily basis, for:

  • Open or weeping wounds;
  • Nodules (phlycten);
  • Bruises;
  • Swelling;
  • Color changes.

PiedReseau helps you effectively relieve the effects of diabetes on your feet

Without proper care, a diabetic foot can worsen to the point where amputation becomes necessary.

Fortunately, PiedReseau clinics can take care of your plantar lesions before they become problematic.

Give your feet a break, consult a PiedReseau podiatrist today.

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