Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can affect the feet. Someone with diabetes is at an increased risk of developing diabetic foot problems if they have had diabetes for a long period of time (> 10 years) or have poorly managed diabetes resulting from poor blood sugar control and lifestyle. There are 3 main ways that diabetes can affect your feet.
1. Nerve Supply to Your Feet
Firstly, Diabetes can affect the nerve supply to your feet. If you have had poorly controlled blood glucose levels for a long time, the sugar in your blood damaged the nerves in your legs and feet which can lead to a loss of protective sensation or “the gift of pain”. You may develop odd sensations in your legs and feet such as burning, tingling, numbness and pain. The loss of sensation also makes you more prone to undetected injuries from stepping on objects or stubbing your toe. When these types of injuries are left undetected, they may result in diabetic foot ulcers and wounds which may ultimately lead to infection and amputation.
2. Blood Supply to Your Feet
Secondly, poorly controlled diabetes and prolonged high blood sugar levels promote the build up of fatty plaque in the arteries of your legs. Over time, the blood supply to your feet will become less and less and Peripheral Arterial Disease results. When your feet don’t recieve adequate blood supply, cuts and scraps may take a much longer time to heal. These prolonged open wounds also increase the risk of subsequent infection which can be serious if there is poor blood supply. As well as this, having poor blood supply makes it more difficult for your body to respond to the infection and resolve it on its own.
3. Your Foot Shape
Long standing diabetes that is poorly controlled can cause the intrinsic (small muscles) in your feet to atrophy and waste away. As a result your toes can become clawed and your foot shape may change. As this happens, it increases pressure points on the sole of your foot and the top of your toes. These pressure points lead to the development of callus and corns which if left undetected or mismanaged, can breakdown into a wound which could ultimately lead to an amputation.