Type 2 Diabetes often develops slowly over a number of years, as your body begins to have trouble controlling sugar levels. Because symptoms are often mild and their onset gradual, it can be easy to dismiss them as signs of aging.
However, if you have Type 2 diabetes, getting an early diagnosis is important for treating the condition and preventing long-term or permanent complications. If the disease goes untreated for an extended period, patients can suffer organ damage, eyesight issues, nerve damage, and amputated limbs.
An estimated 1 out of 10 people in the United States has diabetes, and an estimated 1 out of 5 people who has the disease doesn’t know they have it. So, whether you have a history of diabetes in your family or not, it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with the most common signs and symptoms of diabetic foot problems. If you have these symptoms, you should contact a Keller podiatrist right away.
Foot-Related Symptoms of Diabetes
Diabetes can be especially hard on the feet. Patients with diabetes often suffer from other conditions that reduce blood flow to the feet and make it difficult to feel sensations in the feet. Changes to the feet can be an indicator of diabetes.
During a podiatry visit to our offices, our medical team at Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists will examine your feet and ask you questions to determine if diabetes could be affecting your foot health.
Persistent Foot Pain and Numbness
One of the earliest signs of diabetes is persistent foot pain and numbness. Diabetes can lead to peripheral neuropathy, a condition that can cause nerve damage in the extremities, including the feet. This neuropathy can lead to chronic tingling, burning, or shooting pain, as well as numbness. Ignoring these symptoms can lead to the development of diabetic foot ulcers, which can be difficult to heal.
Slow-Healing Sores and Wounds
People with undiagnosed diabetes may notice that minor cuts, blisters, or sores on their feet take longer to heal than usual. The podiatrists at Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists frequently care for patients with slow-healing wounds, and it is often an early warning sign of diabetes. High blood sugar levels can interfere with the body's ability to repair damaged tissue, which not only causes slow-healing wounds but also increases the risk of infection and complications.
Dry and Cracked Skin on the Feet
Dry, cracked skin on the feet is a common early sign of diabetes, especially if you haven’t noticed this dryness in the past. Elevated blood sugar levels can cause dehydration, leading to this type of skin problem. In treating your diabetes-related foot problems, we often recommend moisturizing your feet regularly to prevent complications like skin fissures on the feet, which can be painful and prone to infection.
Changes in Toenail Health
Podiatrists are trained to observe changes in nail health that could signal underlying health issues. Diabetic patients may experience nail problems such as fungal infections, thickened nails, or ingrown toenails. These issues can be indicative of circulation problems related to diabetes and should not be ignored.
Foot Ulcers and Calluses
Foot ulcers and calluses are common in diabetic patients and can be early indicators of the disease. Elevated glucose levels can lead to poor circulation and reduced sensation in the feet, making individuals less aware of pressure sores and calluses. Podiatrists are trained to recognize and treat these issues promptly to prevent them from progressing into severe complications that might require a surgical solution.
Swelling and Edema
Swelling, particularly in the lower extremities like the feet, can be an early sign of diabetes. High blood sugar levels that go untreated can cause fluid retention, leading to edema in the feet and ankles. During examinations, our Keller podiatrists always check for signs of swelling during routine examinations, as it may signal the need for diabetes testing.
Changes in Foot Temperature
Noticeable changes in foot temperature can indicate circulatory problems associated with diabetes. Diabetic neuropathy can cause poor blood flow to the feet, and identifying these temperature variations can help diagnose diabetes and its related complications.
If diabetes goes untreated, it can lead to structural foot deformities, including Charcot foot, a condition characterized by joint instability and fractures. Our podiatrists are trained to recognize the subtle signs of foot deformities early on and can help manage and prevent further complications.
High blood sugar levels compromise the body's ability to fight infections. Diabetic patients are more susceptible to fungal, bacterial, and yeast infections on their feet, including athlete's foot and cellulitis. Podiatrists play a vital role in diagnosing and treating these infections promptly to prevent their spread.
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a common complication of diabetes that reduces blood flow to the extremities, including the feet. Podiatrists often assess patients for signs of PAD, such as a weak pulse, cool skin, and slow wound healing.
Other Early Symptoms of Diabetes
While the podiatrists at Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists diagnose and treat foot problems brought on by diabetes based on what we see during a routine foot exam, there are other early signs of diabetes that you can look for at home that do not directly involve the feet. Here’s a quick look at some of those early symptoms:
- Weight loss despite hunger
- Frequent need to urinate
- Frequent thirst
- Dry mouth
- Itchy skin
- Blurred vision or eye difficulties
- Yeast infections and other infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Numb or tingling extremities
- Dark skin patches
- Loss of muscle mass
A Podiatrist Can Help
When you need treatment for diabetes, a TX podiatrist might not immediately come to mind as part of your medical team. But, podiatrists are often the doctors who first notice diabetic symptoms in their patients and help them get the diagnosis and treatment they need.
After your diagnosis, an experienced, compassionate podiatrist is a vital medical team member when it comes to controlling and treating your diabetic foot problems. At Alliance Foot & Ankle Specialists, we are proud of the work we do with our patients who have diabetes. We not only treat foot wounds and ulcers, but we also educate our patients about safety and prevention. Diabetes can ravage foot health, but we are here to make sure you have all the tools necessary to keep your feet healthy and happy for years to come.