Prevent and Treat Diabetes Foot Pain

Diabetes foot pain is often long-term and life-altering for people who experience it.  You’ve probably heard it said before that “when you’re feet are sore, you’re sore all over”.  Several years ago, I had minor surgery on both feet at the same time, and I know first-hand that the expression springs from the truth.  How can you avoid foot pain if you have diabetes?

Causes of diabetes foot pain

Diabetes foot pain is most often caused by peripheral neuropathy, damage to the nerves in the feet.  Nerves are damaged when blood sugar levels run too high.  The longer your blood glucose levels are out of range, the more likely you are to experience neuropathy, as well as other complications of diabetes.

How can I prevent diabetes foot pain?

  1. Keep your blood glucose levels in good control.

  2. Wear well-fitting shoes that don’t rub or blister your feet.  If you have Medicare, you may qualify for a new pair of diabetic shoes every year with a doctor’s prescription.  Diabetic shoes are specially designed to prevent blisters and irritation that cause diabetes foot pain.

  3. Consider diabetic socks made without seams that might irritate your feet.

  4. Check your feet every night.  Look for redness, swelling, cuts, or bruises.  If you’re not flexible enough to look at the bottom of your feet, use a hand-held mirror to do the job, or ask a family member to check your feet for you.

  5. If you find a cut, redness, swelling, etc. when you check your feet and you don’t see improvement within three days, call your doctor or podiatrist.

  6. Use a good-quality moisturizer to prevent cracks in your feet.

What if I already have diabetes foot pain?

Don’t beat yourself up.  You can’t go backward, but you can prevent any further damage to your feet by keeping your blood sugar under control.  It’s really important for you to check your feet every night and to get well-fitting diabetic socks and shoes — you may not have full sensation in your feet and that can make you unaware that a cut or blister has formed on the bottom of your foot until you take a look at it.  Be sure to call your doctor or podiatrist right away if you notice a cut that doesn’t heal.

Charcot Foot

charcot foot

Charcot Foot can be a result of diabetic neuropathy.  When people lose lots of sensation in their feet, the bones of the foot can weaken and break.  But, the person with little or no sensation doesn’t feel any pain, so they keep walking.  The joints in the foot can collapse and the foot takes on a “rocker bottom” shape.  Charcot Foot may or may not require surgery, depending on how early it’s detected.  It’s one reason why daily foot checks are so important for people with diabetes.

One More Thing…

I know that checking your feet is one more thing in a long list of things you’re “supposed to do” to take care of your diabetes.  After counting carbs and checking your blood sugar all day, most people just want to relax for a few minutes, and go to bed, already!  I get it, I really do.

But…I worked in a hospital with a wound clinic for several years.  When my hospital first opened the wound clinic, I was young and naive.  I was envisioning gunshot wounds, and I couldn’t imagine that my small town really needed that service.  Then I figured out that the majority of patients in that clinic had diabetic foot ulcers.  Today, I’ve seen more diabetic foot ulcers than I care to count.  I’ve heard too many patients say, “I knew I was supposed to look at my feet, but I just never did it.”  So, please, don’t be that person.  Check your feet and stay out of the wound clinic.

Action Steps — Day 20:

  1. Inspect your feet.  Look for redness, swelling, cuts, or bruises.  Also, check to make sure that your feet don’t feel warmer than the rest of your body (that’s a sign of infection).

  2. Find a way to make checking your feet a habit.  Write it on your calendar, leave your mirror in your recliner, or set a timer on your watch or smartphone.

  3. If you have trouble viewing the bottom of your feet, find a family member or a hand-held mirror to help you do the job.

  4. Moisturize your feet every night to prevent cracks.

  5. Consider diabetic socks if you don’t have some already.

  6. Consider diabetic shoes.  Medicare will cover these with a prescription.

  7. If you’re following the Tame Type 2 in 30 Days series, today’s physical activity goal is to walk briskly for 20-25 minutes.

This post is part of a series, Tame Type 2 Diabetes in 30 Days

Julie Cunningham is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Care & Education Specialist. She believes food is the foundation of good health, and that our culture of obsession about body size is damaging to health, happiness, and productivity in far too many people. When not talking or writing about food and health, she can be found in the the mountains of western NC, where she lives with her family and four legged friends.

Julie Cunningham

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