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December 8, 2019
 

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Weekend doctor: Burning, tingling or numbness in your feet?

It could signal a serious diabetes complication

By Thomas F. Vail, DPM
Podiatrist at the Step Alive Foot and Ankle Center
November is Diabetes Awareness Month and the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) slogan this year is, “Don’t Lose Your Nerve to Diabetes.”

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. If you can’t feel an injury or sore, it could lead to a serious infection.

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

The following tips are recommended 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.

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

Patients with peripheral neuropathy are recommended to 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. If you have diabetes, and especially if you have experienced symptoms of nerve damage, it’s critical to make foot health a priority.