Amy Tenderich was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in May of 2003. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Diabetes Mine and co-authored the book Know Your Numbers, Outlive Your Diabetes. You will frequently find her speaking at diabetes, health, and social media events across the country.
Diabetes can cause problems, literally head to toe. And the damage that can occur to your feet is no joke.
While most of us have a vague idea that diabetic feet need special care, we usually don’t look into the details until it’s absolutely necessary—in other words, when things are already going wrong.
That’s why I encourage you—whether you’ve experienced trouble with your feet to date or not—to take a moment to learn about foot health with diabetes.
A lot of people often say things like, “I have this funny tingling in my feet…I wonder if that could have anything to do with my diabetes.”
The answer is YES!
If you have already experienced noticeable pain or discomfort in your feet, it’s imperative that you see an endocrinologist or podiatrist right away. Intervention can likely slow or halt any damage that may have already been done.
If your insurance permits it, you might go straight to the foot specialist (podiatrist), rather than wasting time getting screened first by a general practitioner (also called a “primary care” or “family doctor”).
If you do have neuropathy
Treatments depend a lot on your symptoms and the type of neuropathy you have, but the first order of business will be to work on lowering your A1c (the test that measures your blood sugar levels over time). Healthy blood sugar control is essential to treating neuropathy.
Specific treatments include:
Pain relievers in the form of oral pills or topical creams. You might be surprised to hear that prescription meds used to treat pain from neuropathy are also commonly prescribed for treating depression―including tricyclic antidepressants, duloxetine hydrochloride, and medicines that control seizures, such as pregabalin and gabapentin.
Physical therapy including exercises, stretching, and massage. Be careful using heat or ice, as neuropathy can make it hard for you to feel changes in temperature.
Alternative therapies like acupuncture, as some studies show that this helps with pain.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), which is a type of therapy that attempts to reduce pain by applying brief pulses of electricity to nerve endings in the skin.
Bonus tip: Excellent resources are available at the "Step On Up" program for helping individuals manage diabetic foot pain.