What is it?

Diabetes is a serious chronic health condition which occurs when there is too much glucose in the blood.

Diabetes can cause significant complications for the feet and legs.

Feet are at risk because diabetes can cause damage to the nerves and the blood supply. The damage is more likely if

  • You’ve had diabetes for a long time
  • You smoke.
  • You drink excessively
  • Your blood glucose levels have been too high for a long period of time
  • You’re inactive.

Even if the above factors don’t apply to you, this doesn’t mean you won’t experience nerve damage or reduced blood supply. Everyone with diabetes should arrange to have regular foot examinations by a podiatrist. How often these check-ups should be will depend on the extent of your overall foot health.

Blood supply

People with diabetes are more at risk of developing blockages in their arteries or hardening of the arteries. Symptoms include

  • Sharp leg cramps in the calves after walking short distances or uphill.
  • Cold feet.
  • Pale skin colour.
  • No hair on the feet.
  • The skin may be shiny and taut.
  • Cuts or injuries which are slow to heal.
  • If you have any of these signs/symptoms, we recommend you see a podiatrist or health care practitioner for further assessment.

Nerve Damage

Poor blood glucose control can lead to nerve damage. The nerves affected are generally your sensory nerves (the ability to feel), those which supply your muscles and those which supply the sweat glands. The symptoms are:

  • Pins and needles or tingling in the feet and/or legs.
  • Numbness in the feet.
  • Burning pain in the legs and feet, often felt at night
  • Gradually worsening hammer toes and loss of muscle tone in the forefoot
  • Drier skin on the feet

Often the nerve damage goes unnoticed and you may not realise you have nerve damage until you go for a foot check. Nerve damage increases the risk of accidental injury to the feet. This can develop into an ulcer or sore on the foot, which can penetrate to the bone. This in turn could lead to osteomyelitis (bone infection) and a chronic infection in the bones and joints. If an infection isn’t treated at the earliest signs, this could result in ulceration (an infected open sore) and eventually amputation (removal of a toe, foot or limb).

If you have diabetes, it is recommended you have a foot check/assessment at least once a year. If you have any complications, your feet should be checked every 3-6 months. A visit to a podiatrist will also show you how to check and care for your feet. Our podiatrists will assess your footwear, functional range of motion, muscle strength and your skin and nails.

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We are committed to solving the problem rather than offering a quick fix. In addition to treatment we’ll provide advice on how you can make small adjustments to reduce your pain, minimise the risk of injury and improve your quality of life.