Why Does Diabetes Affect the Feet?


Quick Answer

Diabetes affects the feet because ongoing high glucose levels can lead to damaged nerves, especially in the extremities, according to Healthline. Although nerve damage can occur in any part of the body, the feet, legs, toes and fingers are the most commonly affected. The condition, called peripheral nerve damage, can cause numbness, pain or tingling.

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Full Answer

High glucose levels damages blood vessels that nourish nerves, Healthline explains. The result is nerves that don't function properly. It is estimated that half of all diabetics ultimately develop some sort of nerve damage, also called diabetic neuropathy.

Diabetics most at risk for nerve damage are those who have been living with the disease for 10 to 20 years, reports Healthline. Other risk factors include advanced age, obesity and difficulty controlling blood sugar. Doctors treat nerve damage by helping patients learn how to maintain targeted glucose levels. Treatments include learning to plan diabetic-friendly meals, engaging in exercise, more frequent glucose testing and managing medications. Physicians also treat the pain associated with nerve damage.

Diabetics require regular foot exams to ensure nerve damage doesn't worsen, says Healthline. Early diagnosis of nerve damage allows doctors to slow the progression of the complication and provide treatment that can keep symptoms under control.

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