If you were to stand on a tack or a small, pointed rock, how would it feel? Generally stepping on something sharp is painful. Most people try to lift their feet off the sharp thing right away to help relieve the discomfort. What if, however, you didn’t really notice the damage? Would you feel the need to protect your foot if you couldn’t feel the problem happening? That is the risk of diabetic neuropathy.
What Is It?
Diabetic neuropathy is one of many dangers people struggling with diabetes must face. Over time, elevated blood sugars damage your body tissues, especially your nerves. The long nerves that reach down into your lower limbs are usually the first to feel any deterioration. The foot becomes less sensitive to touch and temperature, and may develop entirely numb patches. Injured nerves can misfire and send inaccurate information to the brain as well, leaving your feet very painful. Tingling, burning, and a pins-and-needles sensation are common complaints.
Since your feet aren’t able to feel as accurately, and may hurt anyway, many people miss small injuries that occur. Blisters and cuts end up untreated. Because diabetes significantly slows the body’s immune system, these little problems take more time and effort to heal on their own. If you do not notice an issue has developed, you might continue to walk on your injured foot and turn an otherwise small problem into an ulcer. Diabetic neuropathy needs to be treated and monitored closely to help relieve your discomfort and prevent serious damage.
Can It Be Treated?
Nerve damage is not reversible, but its symptoms and complications can be managed using conservative measures. You will need to work with your whole health team to monitor and control your blood sugar levels. If you maintain stable blood sugar, the condition is less likely to progress. You will also have to be very careful with your lower limbs. You may need to adjust your shoes or wear orthotics to help manage pressure on your feet and ankles. That way weight-bearing areas are better protected and cushioned.
Thoroughly wash and dry your feet every day to keep them clean. Have the doctors at NorthPointe Foot & Ankle show you how to keep your nails properly trimmed and your calluses under control. Improper management can lead to ingrown toenails, painfully cracked heels, and other problems.
While you’re cleaning them, inspect them completely for any small injuries or developing conditions you may not have felt—changes in your skin or nails, lumps, bumps, bruises, cuts, or blisters. If you notice a change, seek immediate medical assistance. The diabetic foot experts at NorthPointe Foot & Ankle can help you recover quickly, so you’re less likely to develop serious complications that could result in amputation.
If you have diabetes, don’t take your feet for granted. Even small problems can develop into life threatening ones if not addressed. Pain from diabetic neuropathy doesn’t have to keep you off your feet or out of the activities you love, however. With a little intentional care, you can prevent complications and keep your feet comfortable. Contact NorthPointe Foot & Ankle for an appointment or more information, and take care of your lower limbs. Visit the contact page online or call (248) 545-0100 to reach our Berkley office.