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Diabetic Neuropathy and Your Feet

Bare feet walking on tile floorPeople with diabetes can, over time, have damage to nerves throughout the body. This nerve damage is called "diabetic neuropathy." This can cause numbness and sometimes pain and weakness in the hands, arms, feet and legs. It may also occur in other parts of the body, including the digestive tract, heart, and sex organs. Diabetic neuropathy is more common in people who have trouble keeping their blood sugar under control. People with diabetes can develop nerve problems at any time, but the longer a person has diabetes, the greater the risk.

What could happen to your feet when feeling is lost?

With diabetic neuropathy you "lose your alarm system" for injury. This alarm system protects you. When you feel pain, you limit your activity. With pain and feeling gone, you may not be aware of such things as:

  • poorly fitting shoes

  • blisters

  • stepping on a tack or sharp object

  • an ingrown toenail

Injury can put you at risk for serious foot problems such as:

  • Foot ulcers

  • Infection

  • Death of healthy tissue (gangrene)

  • Loss of your toes, foot or leg (amputation)

Take care of your feet

Person touching their bare feetIf you have diabetic neuropathy, you need to think about your feet and your footwear. Following these helpful tips may reduce your risk for serious foot problems:

  1. Check your feet every day!

  2. Remember: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Early detection prevents problems.

  3. Protect your feet from injury

  4. Ask your healthcare provider about getting special shoes and socks.

  5. To insure the correct fit, be measured for your shoes at the END of the day (when your feet tend to be the most swollen).

  6. Be careful not to wear shoes that are smaller than your feet.

  7. Avoid shoes with seams

  8. Check for torn linings or foreign objects every time BEFORE putting your shoes on.

  9. Wear slippers with thick soles when getting up at night to go to the bathroom.

  10. Wear water shoes when you go to the beach, lake, etc.

Reduce the risk of diabetic neuropathy

The best way to reduce your risk for diabetic neuropathy is to keep your blood sugar levels as close to the normal range as possible. Good blood sugar control may help prevent or delay problems. Things you can do to help:

  • Monitor your blood sugar

  • Eat proper meals

  • Exercise

  • Take your oral medicines or insulin as directed

One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to check your feet and shoes daily. This simple act may prevent ulcers, amputations and might lengthen your life!

Special note: If you have a problem with your feet, be sure to talk with your health care team. They can help. Sometimes the special skills of a podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon are needed.

Learn More:

Active Learning

  • Track Health (My HealtheVet) allows a registered user to record and track your health information in one convenient location. You can keep track of your diet and exercise in the Journals section. My HealtheVet provides dozens of ways to help you manage your health. Start tracking your healthy living activities!,

  • Diabetes Meal Planning (MedlinePlus)

  • Eat Right (American Dietetic Association) Listen to, watch, and read about food and nutrition.

  • Use the Foot problems checklist to record problems with your feet and share this with your healthcare provider.

  • Diabetes - Foot Care (MedlinePlus)

Read

  • How to Prevent Diabetic Foot Problems (My HealtheVet) If you are a diabetic, it is important to practice good foot care. Did you know that diabetes is a leading cause of foot problems? Make foot care an important part of your healthcare [https://www.myhealth.va.gov/mhv-portal-web/anonymous.portal]

  • Footcare: How to cut toenails correctly (My HealtheVet) Most people can cut their own toenails. It is important to know the correct way to cut your toenails. This will help to keep your feet healthy and prevent problems

  • Diabetes - Taking care of your feet

  • Diabetic Foot (MedlinePlus)

  • Diabetes - Foot Care (MedlinePlus)


Updated/Reviewed: August 13, 2015