Diabetes can cause significant complications of the feet and legs. The feet are at risk because diabetes can cause damage to the nerves and the blood supply. The damage is more likely if:

  • If you have had diabetes for a long time
  • If you smoke
  • If you drink excessively
  • Your blood glucose levels have been too high for a long period of time
  • Your are inactive

Even if the above does not apply to you, this does not mean you will not get nerve damage or reduced blood supply. All people with diabetes should have frequent foot examinations by a podiatrist.

Blood Supply:

People with Diabetes are more at risk of developing blockages in their arteries or hardening of the arteries. Symptoms include:

  • Sharp leg cramps in the calfs after walking short distances or uphill
  • Cold feet
  • Pale skin colour
  • No hair on the feet
  • The skin may be shiny and taut
  • Cuts or injuries that are slow to heal

If you have any of these signs/symptoms you should see a podiatrist or health care practitioner for further assessment.

Nerve Damage:

Poor blood glucose control can lead to nerve damage. The nerves that are affected are generally your sensory nerves (the ability to feel) and also the nerves that supply your muscles. The symptoms are:

  • Pins and needles or tingling in the feet and/or legs
  • Numbness in the feet
  • Burning pain in legs and feet often felt at night time

Often the nerve damage goes un-noticed and you may not realize you have nerve damage until you go for a foot check. Nerve damage increases the risk of accidental injury to the feet, which goes unnoticed. An injury to the feet can develop into an ulcer on the bottom of a foot, which can penetrate to the bone. This could lead to osteomyelitis and a chronic infection in the bones and joints. If an infection isn't treated at the earliest signs, this could result in ulceration (an infected open sore) and eventually amputation (removal of a toe, foot or limb).

If you have Diabetes, it is recommended that you have a foot check/ assessment at least once a year. Click on foot health checks for more information on what is involved. If you have any complications then your feet should be checked very 3-6 months. A visit to a podiatrist will also show you how to check and care for your feet.