Ask a Podiatrist: What Does Diabetic Foot Pain Feel Like?

Ask a Podiatrist: What Does Diabetic Foot Pain Feel Like?

Diabetic patients often complain about pain, numbness or tingling sensations in their toes or feet. There are 4 primary types of pain they experience:

Pain from diabetic nerve problems

A primary contributor to diabetic foot pain is a nerve problem called Peripheral Neuropathy. The nerves are directly affected by diabetes. Studies show that 60-70% of people living with diabetes have neuropathy somewhere in their body.

Those with diabetic peripheral neuropathy can experience a wide range of symptoms. The condition causes nerve damage, which may produce the sensation of sharp pain, even when there is no external injury or trauma to the area. In many patients, this is reported as pain of the foot. Sometimes, even the slightest touch or pressure can cause pain.

Because nerve damage changes the mechanism by which all sensation is communicated to the brain, patients frequently experience a loss of feeling. It may be a dull numbness or a feeling of “pins and needles.” This can complicate foot care for diabetics because these patients can suffer cuts, blisters and other injuries that they don’t feel. Even worse, diabetics tend to suffer from poor circulation, which means all wounds heal more slowly, making them more vulnerable to complications like infection.

In motor neuropathy, muscles feel weak and achy. Affected muscles include small foot muscles, thigh muscles, etc. Motor neuropathy can result in muscle paralysis, muscle twitching, cramps, walking imbalance which can trigger skin inflammation (within the shoe), callous formation and other painful symptoms.

Pain from Circulation Problems

Intense pain in the foot could be as a result of irregular, poor or other circulation problems. The feet may be numb to touch as a result of the effect of high blood sugars on arteries, capillaries, and veins.

Commonly affected are the arteries behind the knee and the calf. These arteries are prone to fatty deposits and calcium deposits, all of which can reduce blood flow through the arteries. Inadequate blood flow to the feet can cause pain and discomfort.

Pain from Muscle and Joint Problems

Diabetics often suffer pain and discomfort as a result of problems in the joints and muscles. Tendons attaching muscles to bones may become stiff. It is also possible for the tendons to contract as a result of walking imbalance, forcing feet and joints to move in an unnatural manner. These factors can result in the development of conditions like hammertoe, spurs, bunions and tiny bone fractures, which are common sources of pain and infection.

Pain from infections

Diabetic patients are more prone to bacterial, fungal and yeast infections. Areas of the foot that are irritated, ulcerated or injured can become infected. Signs of infection include swelling, warmth, redness, and tenderness of the skin. Diabetic feet may for the most suffer from numbness, but a patient will usually feel pain in cases of infection. If a diabetic with loss of feeling starts to experience pain in the feet, a podiatrist should be contacted immediately to treat possible infection.

Houston Foot and Ankle Care provides ongoing foot care for diabetic patients. Our goal is to help each individual through routine foot exams and effective treatment. There is no cure for diabetes, but dietary and lifestyle changes, weight management and regular foot care are important factors in managing the disease. If you’d like to schedule an appointment with Houston podiatrist Gabriel Maislos, DPM, FACFAS, please call us at (713) 541-3199. We accept most major forms of medical insurance.

Call (713) 541-3199 if you experience:

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