Foot pain is a part of the process for some diabetics. There are several reasons why diabetics sometimes have to cope with this painful and uncomfortable ill. We will take some time to look at some of the reasons why we feel foot pain and in other articles, we will look at how to prevent or at least minimize foot pain.
Why are my Feet Hurting so Badly?
Nerve problems (Peripheral Neuropathy) is one of the culprits resulting in diabetic foot pain. Over time diabetes affect our nerves. There are three (3) types of peripheral neuropathy:
The most common one is sensory. Let’s look at sensory neuropathy.
Sensory Neuropathy takes place when our sensory nerves are damaged. As long as our blood sugar level remains high over a period of time, this can lead to sensory nerve damage, where even a piece of cloth or your socks could hurt.
This kind of damage (sensory neuropathy) usually starts in our hands and feet. Graduation to the arms and legs are possible. Please see below for some possible symptoms which will be experienced in the damaged area:
- Burning sensations which are beyond explanation
- Tingling at the site of sensory neuropathy
- Feeling numb in the area
- Sharp pains which feel like a stab and mostly occur at nights
- The ability to sense pain or extreme temperatures may be significantly reduced/impaired
Sensory neuropathy can be extremely painful. I have had days when every footwear was uncomfortable to wear. Even my socks would hurt. I would place my feet on the bed and that would hurt too.
One of the main problems with sensory neuropathy is that we can get to a point where we find it more difficult to sense pain. This is dangerous as we may not treat cuts and bruises in time because, especially for our feet, we may not notice the injuries. This could lead to ulcers and even amputation.
When faced with this kind of pain, I reach for any of the rubs/creams I have at home to get some relief. They don’t always work, but, I am usually thankful when they do. This kind of pain (sensory neuropathy) can be crippling in that you just want to stay home.
Staying home is however not possible at times. We have to work to pay the bills and in some cases, we have to care for the children. I massage my feet, especially at nights when this is happening. Yes, it will hurt, but in the morning I am usually a percentage better than the night before.
If you know me, then you would have noticed that I wear comfortable, cushioned footwear, no matter the occasion. I also go for shoes which are soft but gives good support at the same time. This also keeps my tendinitis happy.
I am also big on shoe inserts and so I try a variety of them to make my feet happy and to prevent unnecessary injury to my feet. The inserts give me an extra cushion to prevent the pounding of my feet. The soft, but supportive footwear prevents rubbing and irritation.
In this type of neuropathy, the nerves leading to the muscles are damaged and so the muscles can become weak over time. The muscles also cause pain in this case. Motor neuropathy can affect muscles in our feet, shin, and thigh.
When some of these muscles are aching, then we have issues walking and balancing becomes a concern. This further complicates the matter as the following are possible:
- Skin inflammation
- Rubbing in our shoe
- Callous formation
- General pain
There are appropriate shoes to correct imbalances due to motor neuropathy. We can also use special inserts to help with this problem. The best thing is to control our blood sugar to prevent long-term spikes which will lead to neuropathy.
We always have to mention diet and exercise. Our joints were made to move. We were created to be active beings. Exercise does wonder when there is motor neuropathy. Foot massage and foot rolling equipment are also great to relieve motor neuropathy.
Autonomic Neuropathy takes place in areas where we cannot consciously control. This means that nerves that help with sweating and digestion could be damaged. Note that our organs can also be damaged.
Autonomic Neuropathy is sometimes manifested in the form of dry cuticles and nails, which becomes thick over time. Our skin can also become stiff, dry and cracked. This can result in thicker more painful calluses.
As a result of the above, fungal bacterial infection are a possibility. Yes, that sounds and is, in fact, a lot of pain. Conditioning foot cream and toenail oil are good daily treats for our feet. Prevention is the key here. Yes, diabetes can be fatal. The good news is that we can prevent, control and also eliminate diabetes.
The following organs could be at risk when a diabetic is suffering from Autonomic Neuropathy:
- Sweat glands
- Stomach and Intestines
- Sex organs
Having said the above, take a look at some signs that you may be experiencing autonomic neuropathy:
- It may be difficult to urinate
- Feeling nauseous
- Sweating a lot
- Your heart may beat too fast
- Erectile Dysfunction
- It may be difficult for a woman to be aroused and thereby reach an orgasm. This is so because the natural lubrication process is impaired.
More Diabetic Foot Pain – Circulation
When are having a circulation issue in our feet, we may experience horrible pain. This may also leave our feet feeling numb. We previously noted that this kind of numbness makes it difficult to detect new injuries and so they could go undetected for too long. For this and other reasons, diabetics should take the time to examine our feet on a daily basis.
Our arteries, veins, and capillaries do best when our blood sugar is normal. Fresh blood is taken from our hearts via our arteries. Oxygen is then provided for our tissues. Capillaries are the vehicles the tissues use to take blood to them and away from them as blood moves o and from the heart. Our veins are also a transport unit which plays another role in nourishing our blood.
Diabetes has a way of affecting the arteries behind the calf and the knees. Fatty deposits in these areas result in a thickening of the walls of the arteries, which sometimes leads to calcium deposits. this then results in a blockage or at least a reduced flow of blood to our feet. Yes, this leaves diabetics in a lot of pain as the oxygen-starved tissues struggle to function. The pain has been described as excruciating.
As diabetes is allowed to be out of control, our capillaries get thick and stiff. Yes, more pain and less oxygen and nutrients will go to and from our tissues. I am now even more determined to be rid of diabetes than when I undertook this research. Diabetes is more serious and painful than a lot of people can imagine.
There is more as the veins swell and yes, you guessed correctly, they also cause pain. This has now developed into a situation where the arteries can not handle the flow of blood and so they create small channels to direct blood to the veins. Yes, the arteries stop trying to get the blood through already closed arteries.
At times, this condition pushes more blood than what can be handled by the veins and so they are full until the valves break. We then have the pooling of blood in feet and legs. This then seeps into our skin and creates ulcers….painful ulcers.
Here are some ways that circulation can be improved:
- Support socks/stockings
- Massage (my favorite pass time)
- Physical therapy
Joint and Muscle Problems – Foot Pain and Diabetics
It is common for diabetics to feel pain due to joint and muscle problems. Diabetic neuropathy affects the muscles. That’s not all. Our muscles are also affected by circulation problems and atrophy.
The tendons attach the muscles to the bones. They too become stiff and so they contract. Yes, more pain. When we are imbalanced when walking, thanks to peripheral neuropathy, this also affects tendons. Yes, pain again!
Diabetics may then find that their joints and feet are moving in ways contrary to what and how they were designed to move and to function. They sometimes get stiff and bent due to excess blood glucose which then combines with proteins in our joints. Diabetic glycosylation of the joints is the term used here.
The following are possibilities for diabetics and can result in a lot of pain, infection, ulceration and other medical concerns:
- Tiny fractures
- Dislocation of bones
- Stiff hammertoes
Massage, foot rollers, specially made shoes, and inserts can assist with joint and muscle pain in the feet. It is always a good idea for diabetics to be in constant contact with their doctor.
As diabetics, we are more prone to fungal, bacterial and yeast infections. This is as a result of the medical and nutritional changes that take place in our bodies.
Our feet can sometimes become irritated, ulcerated, or injured because of bacterial infection. Some signs of bacterial infection in our feet include, but are not limited to:
- Feeling warm
The infection can either be on our skin (Cellulitis) or our bone (Osteomyelitis). One strange occurrence can be that your feet are numb, but you are still able to feel pain when there is a bacterial infection. At this point, we should definitely stop by and see our doctor.
Athlete’s Feet and fungal toenails can occur as a result of yeast and fungal infections. Athlete feet can cause our skin to be:
- Inflamed and painful
Germs welcome irritated skin and so it is also possible to have a bacterial infection. When diabetics are faced with fungal toenails, they can result in thick nails that are powdery and ingrown.
Okay, the intention was not to scare you, but to educate so that once given the information, we can make healthier choices and decisions which will prevent or at least reduce the risk of diabetic foot pain. See below for some tips to protect our feet:
- Control of blood sugar is important
- Moderate exercise
- Good nutrition
- Foot inspection on a daily basis
- Tea Tree, and Sesame Oil
- Garlic, and grapefruit seed extract
- Gall-berry root soaks
Top Six (6) Picks For Diabetic Feet Care
- I like to soak my feet in Tea Tree Oil at night. This helps to keep them happy and fungal-free.
- I inspect my feet every day, sometimes more than once to ensure that I am on top of my game as it relates to caring for my feet, especially since I am diabetic.
- I use sesame oil to massage my feet some days. I prefer to massage after work.
- I do the best I can to control my blood glucose. I achieve this by eating mainly whole foods and exercising.
- I wear shoes to prevent blisters and to offer the support my tendon needs without causing irritation to my feet.
- I wear diabetic socks for extra cushion and the fact that they are seamless and do not leave marks on my feet.
Let us remain hopeful and forever grateful that we have the gift of life. Controlling diabetes is not always easy, but with a bit of effort and support from family and friends, we can control this ugly monster. Keep fighting to be free of diabetes. God bless you.
- 2019, EditorPosted on 15th January. “Sensory Neuropathy, Symptoms, Dysesthesia, Treatment, Complications.” Diabetes, 15 Jan. 2019, www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-complications/sensory-neuropathy.html.
- DIABETIC FOOT PAIN, www.nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/vod/vodsum0403.htm.