According to the American Diabetes Association, 37.3 million people have diabetes and 96 million have prediabetes in the USA. Of the 37.3 million adults with diabetes, 8.5 million were undiagnosed. Many more of us are insulin resistant and on the road to developing diabetes. It is estimated that 50% of adults have insulin resistance. There are early signs of diabetes that you should watch out for along with how to reduce your risk of diabetes. However, diabetes has many effects on the body, especially the feet.
Nerve damage can hurt, but diabetic nerve damage can also lessen your ability to feel pain, heat, and cold. The normal ability to regulate sweat has changed as well. Dry, flaking, and generally abnormal skin results. Loss of feeling often means you may not even feel a foot injury or a blister. For example, you could have a rock in your shoe and walk on it all day without knowing. Some people with nerve damage feel numbness, tingling, or pain, but some do not have symptoms. Nerve damage presents in many ways and it is important to find a clinician who understands this.
Preventing Nerve Damage
The most important thing you can do to prevent nerve damage or stop it from getting worse is keeping your blood sugar in check. Other good diabetes management habits can help, too.
- Stop Smoking - Smoking reduces blood flow to the feet and provides a large source of oxidative stress to the tissues.
- Healthy Diet - Eat more fruits and vegetables and less sugar and salt. Avoiding added sugar in what you consume is mandatory.
- Get Active - 10 to 20 minutes a day is better than an hour once a week. Moving a little bit after meals is especially helpful for keeping blood sugar under control.
- Listen to Your Doctor - It sounds like a no brainer, but take medicines prescribed by your doctor as directed.
To help with the symptoms of Nerve Damage we recommend taking Alpha-Lipoic Acid by The Well Theory. This supplement helps ward off harmful inflammation & oxidative stress, which damages nerves leading to neuropathic pain. ALA is also a powerful antioxidant that can help to mitigate some of the oxidative stress happening to your nerves. You can also read about 5 Natural Ways to Relieve Diabetic Neuropathy to find other ways to relieve pain.
Nerve damage from diabetes can also lead to Charcot’s foot which starts off with redness, warmth, and swelling, but later bones in your feet and toes can shift or break. This can cause your feet to have an odd shape, such as a “rocker bottom.”
Diabetes can cause your feet to become very dry causing the skin to peel and crack. This is caused by the nerve damage affecting your body’s ability to control the oil and moisture in your foot.
Calluses occur more often and build up faster on the feet of people with diabetes because there are high-pressure areas under the foot. Too many calluses may mean that you will need therapeutic shoes and inserts. Calluses, if not trimmed, get very thick, break down, and turn into ulcers (open sores). Never try to cut or treat calluses or corns yourself—this can lead to ulcers, infection, and topical agents can burn your skin. Let a health care professional on your diabetes care team cut or treat your calluses and corns.
Poor circulation (blood flow) can make your foot less able to fight infection and to heal. Diabetes causes blood vessels of the foot and leg to narrow and harden. Diabetes coexists with peripheral arterial disease more often than not. There are a variety of ways your doctor can measure blood flow to the foot.
Ulcers form most often on the ball of the foot, at a rocker bottom foot deformity, on tops or insides of toes, at the heel, or on the bottom of the big toe. However, ulcers on the sides of the foot are usually caused by poorly fitting shoes (Finding the right shoe size is important). Even though some ulcers don’t hurt, every ulcer should be seen by your doctor right away. Neglecting ulcers results in infections, which in turn can lead to the loss of a limb.
People with diabetes are far more likely to have a foot or leg amputated than other people. That’s because many people with diabetes also have peripheral artery disease (PAD) and diabetic neuropathy. PAD reduces blood flow to the feet, and neuropathy causes you to not feel your feet. Together, this makes it easy to get ulcers and infections that may lead to amputation. Most amputations are preventable by checking your feet daily, going to regular visits with your doctor, and wearing proper footwear. For these reasons, take good care of your diabetic feet and see your doctor right away if you see any signs of foot problems.