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Diabetes Complications: What Are The Signs?

Burning, tingling, or numbness in your feet could signal serious diabetes complication.

More than 30 million Americans are living with diabetes, and peripheral neuropathy, or nerve damage in the feet, is one of the most common—and most serious—complications of the disease. Nerve damage causes burning, tingling, heaviness, or numbness in the feet and affects up to 70 percent of all diabetic patients.

“Neuropathy can be a rather scary aspect of diabetes because patients may not be able to feel pain,” said Dr. George Tsatsos, DPM, a podiatrist at Ankle N Foot and a member of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). “If you can’t feel an injury or sore, it could lead to a serious infection.”

Image of a foot undergoing complications due to diabetes“File: Wound In Diabetic Foot (Translated)” by PhilippN is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Why Does It Matter?

People with diabetes have a harder time healing from infections, and even a minor sore or blister could ultimately lead to amputation. Dr. Tsatsos says it’s important to try to prevent nerve damage before it happens, and to take extra precautions if you do experience symptoms.

Tips

Podiatrists recommend the following tips to help prevent peripheral neuropathy:

Carefully manage your blood sugar in conjunction with your diabetes care team. Well-regulated blood sugar may help protect your nerves from damage.

Increase your physical activity. Exercise can help keep your weight down and improve circulation. Try walking for 15–30 minutes daily.

See a podiatrist regularly. A podiatrist is a physician, surgeon, and specialist with advanced training in the foot and ankle. Your podiatrist is a critical member of your diabetes care team and can help you prevent diabetic nerve damage.

What Else Can Be Done?

If you do experience diabetic nerve damage, foot care becomes even more critical. “It starts at home with daily checks on your feet,” said Dr. Tsatsos.

“Check your feet for any injuries and for changes to the skin, hair, or even temperature of the skin. If you can’t see your feet well, try propping up a mirror, or ask friends or family for help.”

Dr. Tsatsos recommends patients with peripheral neuropathy never go barefoot because of the risk of injuries. People with peripheral neuropathy should see a podiatrist regularly to help catch any changes in their foot health early.

“Regular foot care—both at home and in your podiatrist’s office—is essential to avoid serious complications from diabetes,”

Dr. Tsatsos said. “If you have diabetes, and especially if you have experienced symptoms of nerve damage, it’s critical to make foot health a priority.”


Dr. George Tsatsos, DPM is a podiatrist at Ankle N Foot in Chicago, IL.
Call or make an appointment online. Visit www.apma.org/diabetes to learn more about foot health and diabetic nerve damage.