As a Houston podiatrist, I provide diabetic foot care to many patients. So I've learned a lot about the disease. And, today, I'm sharing some of that information to help my readers and patients.
That's why this article will help you spot the diabetes warning signs your feet can show you. Plus, we'll review one simple way you can manage or even reverse your disease! Ready to get started? Let's dive in!
Symptoms of Diabetes in Your Toes
One of the first signs of diabetes isn't visible. Instead, it's a feeling (or loss of feeling) in your toes. Why is that the case?
When your blood sugar is too high for too long, that can damage your nerve fibers. And this can trigger peripheral neuropathy, leaving you with numb or tingling toes.
Now, neuropathy can affect nerves all over your body. But your feet are often the first place you'll experience numbness. That's because some of your longest nerve fibers end in your feet. And the ends of longer fibers are most vulnerable to damage from high blood sugar.
On its own, neuropathy is uncomfortable or even painful. But it also creates a dangerous situation for diabetics. Because, if you lose feeling in your feet, you may not notice cuts, blisters or even ingrown toenails.
If that happens, these small injuries can become big problems. Since diabetes also reduces blood flow to your feet, even a little scrape may not heal fully. And that's when you may see bigger changes happening to your feet.
Side Effects of Neuropathy for Diabetic Feet
- Ulcers. These are open wounds that won't heal. As I said before, neuropathy and diabetes work together, increasing your risk for ulcers. Because, if you can't feel an injury, and less blood flow increases healing times, problems are likely. That's why, when you have diabetes, you need to check your feet every day. You may also need to wear special shoes, to protect your feet from rubbing and blisters.
- Calluses. The American Diabetes Association warns that calluses can be a sign of the disease. That's because high pressure areas on diabetic feet can lead to this build up of skin.
- Infection, inflammation and even tissue death or amputation. Unfortunately, diabetes makes your feet more vulnerable to bacterial infection.
- Eye problems, too. If your eyes and feet are giving you trouble, that could be a sign of diabetes. Often, the two problems go hand in hand with this disease.
Now that you understand the ways diabetes can impact your feet, you'll know the warning signs to watch for. Especially if your weight or family history increases your disease risk. But I also want to talk to those of you who already have Type II diabetes. Because, as it turns out, there are things you can do to reverse your diagnosis. And one of the most effective options could be weight loss.
Losing Weight with Type II Diabetes
If you're carrying extra weight, it is usually a good idea to try to lose some weight with a healthy diet and exercise. In fact, if you are pre-diabetic, losing weight could help you prevent the disease. But can weight loss help you reverse Type II diabetes?
How did they get to this finding? Well, study author Dr. Roy Taylor, a professor of medicine and metabolism at Newcastle University, followed a group of 300 diabetics. To start, he assigned one of two courses of treatment at random. One group would continue their current diabetes management plan, including using medications. But the other group would be assigned to a weight-management program. And nothing else.
Here's what they found by the end of the study. After six months, he looked at the group assigned to the weight management program. And, of the participants who lost at least 30 pounds, about half went into diabetic remission.
Now, that's good news on its own. But here's what's even better. Not one of those patients took any medications. In fact, they didn't use any diabetes management resource other than weight loss during the study. And, by doing so, they managed to reverse their diabetes diagnosis. How could that be possible? It all has to do with the reasons you develop Type II diabetes in the first place.
Causes of Type II Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is caused by the body’s inability to break down food’s sugars. Normally, cells in your pancreas work to release insulin. (That's a hormone that can process sugar, sending it to cells that need energy or storing it as fat for future energy needs.) Cells in the liver are then responsible for clearing insulin from the circulation.
But here's the problem. If you have excess fat in your pancreas or liver, it can start shutting down these insulin-producing cells. That leads to spikes in blood sugar levels and, over time, the onset of Type II diabetes.
So, to get back to our weight loss study results, let's hear from Dr Taylor again. He says, “People newly diagnosed with diabetes for the first time can look at this and know it isn’t necessarily for life. It isn’t an irreversible, inexorable condition that you can never escape from … From the very clear data we produced in this trial, yes, this is a watershed moment for diabetes. We can offer people hope from the start.”
In other words, just because you have Type II diabetes right now doesn't mean you will forever. So here's what I want you to do if you're living with this disease.
First, I want you to carefully check your feet each day for signs of damage. Next, I want you to maintain regular visits with every doctor on your diabetic care team. (So make an appointment with Dr. Schneider right now for a quarterly foot exam.)
Finally, I encourage you to try and reach your optimal weight. Feel free to explore our library of healthy diabetic recipes. Or to reach out and ask for guidance about new walking and running programs. We're here to protect your feet, but also to help you manage your diabetes and live your healthiest life.