Nerve Damage and Diabetic Foot

Foot nerve examination

What is Diabetic Foot?


The worst nightmare for a diabetic with poorly controlled blood glucose levels is the ulceration of the feet – diabetic foot. In fact, for some patients, even before being a known diabetic, they experience symptoms of diabetes in the form of a tingling sensation in the feet.

High blood sugar levels can create havoc on the body and can create numerous complications to the eyes, kidneys, blood vessels, and nerves. Added to that, diabetes is synonymous with reduced ability to  fight infections. This is certainly a perfect recipe for problems of the feet.

Known as Diabetic Foot Syndrome, diabetic foot is the result poorly controlled diabetes for a prolonged period of time. Diabetic foot is the result of the damage done to the nervous system due to high blood  sugar levels. This leads to reduced sensation of pain and pressure.

With reduced sensation in the feet, patients do not have normal sweat secretion. They experience abnormal pressure on the joints, bones, and the skin of the feet during movement. This leads to the development of sores that turn into ulcers.

A diabetic foot ulcer can also be the result of bacterial and fungal infections of the tissue, skin, and the muscles of the feet. This can lead to prolonged treatment due to a compromised immune system of the diabetic.

Even as the patient experiences initial symptoms of high blood sugar, there would be changes in the skin  of the feet. This is due to nerve damage.

Some symptoms of nerve damage in diabetics:

  • Lack of sensation of heat, cold, and pain.
  • Tingling, burning, or stinging sensation in the feet.
  • Changes in the shape of the fingers of the feet.
  • Buildup of Calluses in the feet.
  • Development of foot ulcers.

Since the treatment of diabetic foot can be prolonged and lack of compliance can even lead to amputation of the feet, it is very important to have good blood glucose control.

Here are a few symptoms of the diabetic foot that you have to look out for:

  • Drainage (with odour) from the foot.
  • Swelling, irritation of the foot.
  • Skin Discoloration.
  • Formation of black tissue in the area of the ulcer.


What causes diabetic foot?

It is a known fact that there are numerous undiagnosed diabetics. Unfortunately, they consult diabetologists only after experiencing severe high blood sugar symptoms. By the time these patients start their medication, some extent of nerve damage would have already occurred. This is the reason many patients end up with diabetic foot.

Here are a few causes of the diabetic foot:

  • Wounded feet (trauma to the feet).
  • High blood sugar.
  • Poor blood circulation to the feet.
  • Damage to the feet.
  • Ill-fitting footwear.
  • Smoking.

It is very important to know that most non-trauma related foot amputations are a result foot ulcers caused by diabetes. And, since peripheral neuropathy and vascular disease are common in diabetics, it is also important to take proper precautions to avoid diabetic foot.

In fact, getting a complete evaluation of the feet from a licensed podiatrist is a mandate for everyone who exhibits diabetes symptoms.

Precautions to avoid diabetic foot:

  • Check your feet daily.
  • Wash your feet and maintain proper hygiene.
  • Consult a diabetologist and a podiatrist in case of corns, calluses, and sores.
  • Trim toenails.
  • Protect feet from heat and cold.
  • Wear diabetic footwear.

Since diabetic foot can lead to disability if left untreated, it is important both for patients to get a periodical foot exam in case the doctor notices signs of diabetes.