Pins, Needles and Pain—Is Diabetes Affecting Your Feet?
When diabetes affects the nerves, it is called diabetic neuropathy. Diabetes-induced nerve damage can affect many areas, including the chest and heart (sometimes mimicking a heart attack), or the face, eyes and ears. Sometimes it affects the digestive system and even the sweat glands. The most recognized form of diabetic neuropathy occurs in the feet. In fact, foot neuropathy can be one of the first signs of diabetes. The longer you have diabetes, the higher your risk of developing neuropathy, and foot neuropathy is one of the most common types of nerve damage.
What Causes Diabetic Neuropathy?
As a complication of diabetes, there is no direct cause of neuropathy. Combinations of factors may contribute to the condition. These include:
High Blood Sugar. High sugar levels prevent nerves from transmitting signals properly. When signals cannot be sent or are incorrectly received, numbness or pain can result.
Genetics. Some people are more prone to neuropathy because of traits inherited from their parents.
High Cholesterol. Patients with high cholesterol are at greater risk of diabetic neuropathy. The risk further increases in patients who are overweight.
Do You Have Diabetic Neuropathy in Your Feet?
The long motor nerves that extend to your feet are usually the culprit in foot neuropathy. Milder cases may not be noticeable to the untrained eye. Over time, the nerve damage will worsen, increasing the levels of pain.
Some of the more common symptoms of diabetic neuropathy of the feet are:
- Tingling or a “pins and needles” sensation
- Burning or itching sensations
- Muscle weakness
- Pain when the feet are touched
- Cramping, jabbing or a ‘zapping’ sensation
- Loss of balance/difficulty walking
- Complete loss of feeling
In the early stages, your feet may alternate between pain and numbness. The longer this goes on, the worse the sensations will become. When pain levels increase, simple activities such as walking can become unbearable. If feet become numb, there is a high risk of infection because you cannot tell if your foot has been injured. Diabetic foot neuropathy is one of the leading causes of limb amputation, which is why it is so important to get your neuropathy under control.
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