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Diabetic Foot Pain and How to Treat it

Updated on January 30, 2010

Diabetic foot pain is a real problem for millions of people who suffer from diabetes.  Diabetes may cause changes to the foot that may lead to a number of painful complications.  These complications can come in the form of various neuropathy (nerve degradation), weakened immune systems that open the body up to foot infections, and various other painful foot conditions.  Frequently these conditions occur over time and go unnoticed as they tend to develop slowly.  However, at the first sign of any of these types of foot pain, it’s important to get control of your blood sugar levels and see your doctor right away.

There is a plethora of information available online for any of the following conditions which will allow you to learn to see if you have diabetic foot problems and recommended ways for treating foot pain.  For more information see the resources section below.

Diabetic Foot Pains

The first of the diabetic related foot problems is sensory neuropathy. This is the deterioration of the nerves in the leg that detect sensations such as heat, cold, or pain. This is the most common foot pain experienced by diabetics. Damage resulting from sensory neuropathy is most often caused by repetitious injuries that can’t be felt. Continually walking with pressure on one part of the foot, foreign objects in the shoe, tight shoes or walking barefoot; all of these may cause foot pain and result in corns, calluses, and sores leading to ulceration and infection

Another type of neuropathy is autonomic neuropathy. This is the deterioration of the nerves that regulate functions that don’t have to be controlled consciously, like sweating. In addition to the problem of having soaking wet feet, when the sweat glands stop performing properly the result can be cracking, fissures, and ulceration on the feet. It’s like walking around with wet socks all day (because that’s essentially what it is).

People with diabetes often have compromised immune systems. While this won’t directly cause ulcers or sores on the feet, it does increase the body’s risk of developing various types of infections such as bacterial and fungal infections. It also reduces the body’s ability to heal which can prolong foot problems.

Another common foot pain that diabetics experience is athlete’s foot. Also known as tinea pedis, this affliction usually appears in 1of 2 forms, either in and around the toes, or over the entire sole of the foot. Symptoms of tinea pedis include scaling and itching, or, in some cases, blisters. It may mimic other conditions but diagnosis can be determined with a simple laboratory test.  There are a variety of athlete's foot treatments available, both over the counter and prescribed

Onychmoycosis is a fungal infection under the toenail. Some toenail fungus symptoms may include having the nails appear discolored – from patches of white to yellow or even black. The nails may also become thick, brittle and painful. The infection may spread if not treated effectively, potentially leading to more serious complications

So how do you keep your diabetic foot pain under control?

The best way to avoid possible complications from diabetes is to keep your blood sugar levels under control. Be sure to follow your doctor’s guidelines for diet, exercise and medication. Be sure to have your feet examined regularly. Early detection of potential problems will allow your doctor to treat tem early. And that will help you stay on your feet


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