You may have heard that diabetes takes a major toll on your foot health, but do you know why diabetics have foot problems? There are a few different ways that diabetes can cause foot damage. First, if blood sugar levels aren't carefully maintained, glucose can stay in your blood for too long, causing many different health complications, including two that can impact your feet:

Diabetes-Related Foot Problems

1. Diabetic neuropathy. One of the results of too much blood glucose can be nerve damage. One of the most common places for diabetics to experience this kind of nerve damage is in their hands and feet, making it more difficult to feel sensations like heat, cold, or pain.

Losing sensation can be uncomfortable, making you feel a constant numbness or tingling in the damaged parts of your body. Fortunately, if caught early enough, you can address the numbness and tingling through treatments like the Neuremedy supplement or through the non-invasive MicroVas thereapy, available in our Houston podiatry practice, that increases blood circulation in the feet and legs to help alleviate the discomfort of neuropathy.

Unfortunately, this lack of feeling is isn’t just uncomfortable—it can also be dangerous.  If you are not able to feel a cut or sore on your foot, you may leave it unclean and untreated—and that leaves the cut open and vulnerable to infections. Nerve damage can also affect the muscles in your feet, Too much glucose in your blood can cause dangerous diabetic foot complicationsmeaning some may work while others slack off or work less efficiently. If this happens, your foot alignment could be impacted, meaning some areas of your foot are subjected to more pressure than they are meant to handle. Left unchecked, this pressure can build up over time and lead to diabetic foot wounds.  

Not only are foot wounds harder for diabetics to notice, they also take longer to heal because your feet are getting less blood flow, making it difficult for your body to generate new, healthy cells. Basically, once it sets in, neuropathy puts your feet on a dangerous cycle of damage that’s hard to catch and harder to heal.

  1. Peripheral vascular disease. As we briefly mentioned before, uncontrolled diabetes can also affect your blood flow. When blood flow in your arms and legs is affected by diabetes it is called "peripheral vascular disease." Peripheral vascular disease impacts the vessels that carry blood away from your heart, to your outer body parts. In combination with peripheral neuropathy, peripheral vascular disease can be very dangerous for your foot health. If you have neuropathy or vascular disease, you must examine your feet every day, looking for any cuts or sores that could cause problems. You must also maintain regular visits with your podiatrist for more comprehensive foot exams, or to check in with any foot problem that causes you concern.

Managing Diabetes Through Your Diet

While there are some therapies that can help with diabetic foot complications, the best way to protect your feet from diabetes is to maintain good diabetic control. This way, glucose doesn’t build up in your blood and many serious complications can be avoided.

It’s certainly harder to manage your diabetes when you’re ordering at a restaurant, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop eating out—you just have to put a little more thought into what you decide to eat.  Before you order, consider the following:

Portion size: Eating smaller portions can help you manage your blood sugar, so it's important to know the size of your dish. If your dish has more food than you normally eat at home, ask the server to give you half the dish at the table and box the other half for you to take home. You can also split a dish with someone else.

Prep method: Many restaurants offer healthy options, but how the food is prepared makes a big difference in terms of how healthy it is: breaded, deep-fried veggies, for example, are no longer so healthy. If the menu doesn't tell you how a food is prepared, ask your server. Is the food cooked with butter or vegetable oil? Can the meat and vegetables be grilled? What about sautéed or steamed vegetables?

Substitutions. One good way to stay on track at restaurants by making healthy swaps. Consider the following American Diabetes Association recommendations the next time you’re eating out:

Healthy Swaps at Different Restaurants


Instead of…

Try this…

Fried rice

Steamed rice (ask if you can have brown rice for more whole grains and fiber!)

Vegetable tempura

Steamed vegetables

Creamy crab and sweet corn soup

Wonton soup

Sweet and Sour sauce

White sauce/garlic sauce on the side

Fried spring roll

Fresh spring rolls

Coconut-milk based dishes

Stir fry dishes—ask to go light on the oil


Instead of…

Try this…

Fried calamari

Caesar or Caprese salad

Fried mozzarella

Minestrone or Italian Wedding soup

Alfredo or Carbonara sauce

Marinara sauce


Instead of…

Try this…

Flour tortillas

Corn tortillas (or whole wheat if available)

Sour cream

Pico de gallo

Refried beans

Black beans


Grilled seafood or chicken


Instead of…

Try this…

Rib eye or T-bone

Filet mignon or sirloin (Extra tip: ask the server if the steak can be cooked with olive oil instead of butter)

Loaded baked potato, mac and cheese, potatoes au gratin, creamed spinach

Grilled, steamed, or sautéed vegetables

Bearnaise or borderlaise sauce

Sautéed mushrooms and/or onions (the natural juices from these non-starchy vegetables taste great with steak!)

Pan seared steak with butter

Olive oil instead of butter

Dr. Andrew Schneider
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A podiatrist and foot surgeon in Houston, TX.
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