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Family Foot & Ankle

Know the Signs of Diabetic Feet

When it comes to diabetic foot care, it definitely pays to take a proactive approach. While it’s important to treat any symptoms promptly as soon as they appear, it’s even better to greatly limit our outright prevent them in the first place.

The reason for this is simple: the consequences of diabetes for your feet can develop so gradually, and their effects can deaden your ability to detect them so well, that a serious problem could be on your doorstep before you know it. 

If you have diabetes, starting a diabetic foot care plan now – even before your feet show any signs of trouble – is an extremely worthy investment in your long-term health.

But what if you have not yet been diagnosed with diabetes, or are experiencing symptoms that you have questions about? It’s still important to know what diabetes can do to your feet, and identify potential signs if you see them.

Warning Signs in Diabetic Feet

It’s important to note that, given how closely the effects of diabetes can be tied to conditions relating to nerve injury and poor circulation, not all of the signs we list here automatically mean they stem from the effects of diabetes. They are still important symptoms to address no matter what, though, and we absolutely recommend seeing us about them!

Loss of Hair on Your Toes, Feet, or Legs

Hair needs circulation to grow well. If you are losing hair in your lower extremities, it can be an indication of reduced blood flow to this area – potentially by the consequences of diabetes or related conditions such as peripheral artery disease (PAD).

Leg Cramps During Exercise or Other Physical Activities

If your calves, thighs, or buttocks cramp up during activity – even during mild sessions such as walking – it can be an early sign of a circulatory condition, perhaps related to diabetes. 

This condition is known as “intermittent claudication,” and tends to subside once you are able to take a moment to rest. It does not tend to be a constant discomfort.

Having Dry, Itchy Skin More Often

Having dry, itchy skin on the feet (and elsewhere) may be a sign of living in a dry environment. But if you are noticing your skin is drier more often than it has been in the past, that is something that should be checked.

Burning or Tingling Sensations in the Feet

Abnormal and unexpected sensations in the toes and feet are typically initial signs of nerve damage. Tingling, burning, electric sensations, or inexplicable pain can mean that nerves are in distress.

How can diabetes damage the nerves? A high, uncontrolled concentration of blood sugar is believed to have a negative effect on them, but so does constricted blood flow. Since the feet are farthest from the heart and it takes the most effort to pump blood to them, they tend to be one of the first noticeable victims of many circulation problems.

Diminished Senses of Touch or Temperature in the Feet

This tends to be a sign of deeper nerve damage beyond the sensations noted above, and can pave the way to even further problems if left unaddressed. Although nerve pain can become excruciating, a total lack of feeling whatsoever is an even greater danger.

The less you can feel happening to your feet, the more at risk they are for suffering undetected injuries. Walking and continuing to put pressure on these existing injuries can cause them to deteriorate, creating sores and ulcers that have high risks of infection.

Having Fungal Toenails and/or Plantar Warts

Strong circulation means a stronger immune system to take on invading viruses and fungi. The effects of diabetes, however, can start to limit both circulation and immune performance, making problems like fungal toenail infections and plantar warts more prevalent.

Injuries On Your Feet Are Taking Longer to Heal

If cuts or sores on your feet aren’t starting to improve within a few days, it may mean your cells are not receiving enough of the growth factors and nutrients they need to conduct proper repairs. Combined with an inability to sense damage to your feet, this can lead to extreme danger if left unchecked.

Do Not Wait for Diabetic Foot Signs to Worsen

Or even appear in the first place! Diabetes can be a relentless condition. If you are not living with any of the above symptoms now, not taking preventative steps and properly managing your condition now will just about guarantee you will see some of them creep into your life in the future.

And if you do not suspect you have diabetes but still experience some of the symptoms above, do not delay getting checked out. Even if diabetes is not in the picture, something else may be that should be treated.

Call us at (513) 728-4800 to schedule an appointment at any of our six area offices. You are also more than welcome to reach out to us electronically, if you prefer. Simply fill out our online contact form and a member of our staff will respond to you during our standard office hours.

Dr. Cynthia Miller
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Dr. Cynthia Miller is a board certified podiatrist who has been established in the Cincinnati area since 2004.
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