If you have diabetes you may have been told to take special care of your feet, but perhaps you don’t know why. Understanding how and why foot problems develop will help you to take action to prevent them. By understanding how your feet can change with diabetes and by learning how to spot those changes you can take positive action to keep your feet healthy.

High blood glucose levels can cause damage to the nerve systems in your body, which stops important messages getting to and from your brain. The nerves in your body that are most likely to be affected are the longest ones – those that have to reach all the way to your feet and legs. Damage to your nerves is the thing most likely to affect your feet if you have diabetes.

Nerve damage is also sometimes called neuropathy. When it affects your feet it can lead to the following:

  • Damage to sensory nerves, which means that you start to lose sensation in your feet and are less able to feel pain, temperatures and vibrations
  • Damage to motor nerves, which can affect the muscles in your feet causing toe joints and bones to change shape
  • Damage to autonomic nerves which can reduce the amount of sweat that your feet produce, which will make your skin very dry.

The other important reason why some people with diabetes develop foot problems is because high blood glucose levels can also cause damage to your blood vessels. This can affect the blood supply (circulation) to your feet and legs and may mean that less blood gets to your skin, muscles and tissues.

Sometimes people with diabetes think that foot problems are caused by a poor blood supply, and therefore they think that if their feet are warm and pink then they are healthy. In fact, the biggest cause of foot problems for people with diabetes is damage to the nerves that supply your feet and legs. Because nerve damage often shows itself gradually you may not know that you are at risk of foot problems. So, even if your feet look healthy, it’s important to check them regularly and to make sure your nerves are tested at your annual diabetes review.



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