Poorly managed diabetes affects all body systems, including the nervous and circulatory systems. Some of the worst damage happens in the legs, ankles, and feet. If you have foot pain related to diabetes, quick treatment and ongoing prevention are paramount to your health. Here’s an accurate review of what you need to know about diabetic foot pain treatment and where you can go for outstanding diabetic foot pain treatment in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
A Serious Complication of Type-1 and Type-2 Diabetes
One of the most significant health complications diabetics faces is peripheral neuropathy. It is not a disease in itself, but rather a debilitating and destructive condition that happens due to injury or physiological defect, such as diabetes or thyroid disease, or neuropathy. These symptoms can lead to serious damage both to life and to limb.
These symptoms include:
- Numbness in the feet and hands
- Sharp, stabbing pain
- Poor motor control
Sadly, neuropathy can damage and even destroy sensory nerves and autonomic nerves, such as those responsible for bowel and bladder control. People with neuropathy also can have visual disturbances, vision loss, erectile dysfunction, and more.
Left undetected and untreated, diabetic foot pain related to neuropathy leads to changes in balance, coordination, and ambulation. People feel tingling sensations in their hands and feet, and some diabetic foot pain patients complain that they are continually walking on pebbles.
Besides diabetic foot pain and odd, uncomfortable sensations doctors call paresthesias, people struggling with high blood sugars also have poor peripheral circulation. Accompanying symptoms include:
- Darkened skin tone due to poor blood supply
- Substantial hair loss on the legs and feet
- Dry, cracked skin
- Intense itching
- Skin infections
- Blisters and deep, open wounds (which can lead to tissue death or gangrene)
Diagnosis and Treatment of Diabetic Foot Pain
People with diabetes should see their foot and ankle specialists at the first sign of diabetic foot pain. The foot doctor will inspect the feet and also perform nerve studies as needed. These in-office tests are called electromyograms (EMG) and nerve biopsies. Additionally, the doctor will test reflexes and sensations in the feet and ankles. Blood tests and other lab assessments may be ordered, and digital imaging can confirm or rule out nerve compression (impingement) as the source of pain.
With the examination findings, the podiatrist may recommend proven treatments considering your age, activity level, medical history, and diabetic control. No over-the-counter oral analgesic, such as acetaminophen, adequately controls diabetic foot pain. However, many FDA-approved prescription medications do provide some relief. These include Cymbalta and Lyrica. Additionally, some people do well with topical lidocaine and capsaicin to quell the pain.
Other diabetic pain interventions may include:
- Physical therapy to improve foot and ankle strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination
- Use of a walker or cane to support safe ambulation and to avoid falls related to lack of sensation or poor balance
- Wearing protective, custom-made shoe inserts called orthotics which cushion painful feet and accommodate diabetic deformities and wounds
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) to interrupt pain signals to the brain
Prevention of Diabetic Foot Pain
The common sense preventive measure to avoid diabetic foot pain, peripheral neuropathy, and other complications is tight management of blood glucose levels. Along with this, patients should watch their diets, stay really well hydrated, and also quit smoking. Exercise promotes healthy circulation and helps control weight.
Additionally, all diabetics should see their foot and ankle surgeons at least once a year, or more often as their podiatrists direct as sensible and prudent. Podiatrists visually inspect the feet, checking for shoe fit and wear and making additional recommendations for orthotics, diabetic shoes, and assistive devices to correct gait and offload pressure and friction.
At home, people with diabetes should look at their feet carefully every day, looking for redness, changes in color, dry skin, and other abnormalities. Be sure to report changes to your foot and ankle doctor right away.
Other important diabetic foot care includes:
- Washing the feet daily with mild soap and warm water and drying them completely with a clean towel
- Trimming nails straight across with clean clippers (to avoid ingrown toenails and infection)
- Wearing clean, smoothly-fitting socks every day (to avoid pressure and friction from bunched-up material)
- Never going barefoot, even in the house
- Wearing well-fitting shoes with good support
- Wearing shower sandals in the locker room and water shoes or flip-flops poolside to avoid fungal infections and accidental injuries
Diabetic Foot Pain Treatment in Rhode Island and Massachusetts
At Foot & Ankle Institute of New England, our board-certified and fellowship-trained foot and ankle surgeons deliver comprehensive diabetic foot care. From simple nail trimming to complex limb salvage procedures, our providers help diabetics with state-of-the-art treatments, which reduce pain, and improve health, function, and quality of life.