Diabetes Leg Pain, What To Do When You Get It



Diabetes leg pain is part of the complications that could set in. They have a scientific name for this type of condition. They call it peripheral arterial disease (PAD). What happens with PAD? The arteries become blocked or partly clogged due to atherosclerosis. These arteries provide blood to the limbs, more generally the legs.

What is atherosclerosis? Diabetes can harm the major arteries as well as the small blood vessels. This makes it possible for the fatty deposits to congregate in the arteries, causing them to narrow. This what is known as atherosclerosis which leads to disorders like stroke, heart attack and diabetes leg pain due to the circulation that has become damaged.

Here's another perspective on atherosclerosis. This is nothing but the process in which the walls of the arteries become hard and thick from the fatty deposits. This slows down the blood flow to the other parts of the body including the limb causing the diabetes leg pain as shown in this photo by Arch. Fran Marie I. Flores


Do you want to know the signs and symptoms of PAD? The first signs are tingling and numbness in the feet. At the start, the clogged blood vessels can cause pain when walking. One can also feel cramping and tiredness in the legs and buttocks when walking. After some rest, these signs and symptoms fade. Here are the common symptoms in a nutshell:

  • Intense sensitivity to light touch
  • Numbness and lack of sensation to changes in temperature and pain
  • Tingling and burning
  • Loss of coordination and balance

Sometimes the pain is worst at night. The damaged nerves lead to weakness in muscle and loss of reflexes. Frequently, the foot becomes shorter and wider. Then the walk changes and foot ulcers come into view. Sometimes there is no sensation to this and so may become worse due to lack of attention.

When this is not treated in time, it could lead to amputation. But this does not have to happen. Injuries when caught in time can be controlled. Try to avoid injury to the foot, wear well fitted shoes and check the feet every day. All these should help prevent amputation.


People with Diabetes Lose More Than Money

It is not about money. "No amount of money will give back my limb," said a 65 years old woman with diabetes (name withheld on request) who underwent limb amputation at the Gandhi Memorial & Associated Hospitals.

Dr Rishi Sethi, who works with Department of Cardiology at CSM Medical University and Prof Kant said that "long-standing diabetes is often the site of neuropathic and vascular growth which is a considerable threat, not only to the lower limb but also to the life of the patient".

Relatively diabetic foot is one of the leading causes resulting in long hospital stays for people with diabetes. It demands much care and attention by both the patient and healthcare personnel. Two major problems which predispose the patients with diabetes to amputation are the development of neuropathy due to uncontrolled diabetes over several years while result in damage to the nerves in the feet leading to the loss of sensation.

They also develop certain high pressure points under the feet which result in the formation of callus which later turns in to an ulcer. In addition, cigarette smoking will lead to nerve damage and reduced blood flow in the feet.

Cigarrest to Stop Smoking in 7 Days!

Prof Kant gave us this list on some ways the diabetics can take care of their feet:

  • Keep feet clean - wash them regularly.
  • Use only lukewarm water - no hot water, heating pads, hot water bottles, iodine or alcohol.
  • Keep the feet dry - especially between toes-use unscented lotion or cream to keep skin soft.
  • Use only medicines recommended by your doctor.
  • Cut toe nails straight across, not deep into the corners to help avoid ingrown toe nails.
  • Never use razors, knives or corn caps to remove corns.
  • Wear shoes or slippers at all times -never walk bare foot even at home.
  • Wear good fitting shoes/slippers - not tight or worn-out ones. Boots should be used only for short periods.
  • Check your feet daily and see your doctor immediately about foot problems.

The World Diabetes Day is celebrated every November which in India, is also observed as Children's Day to commemorate the birth anniversary of India's first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru who was known for his affection towards children. Let us hope that the awareness related to diabetes can be upped phenomenally.

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Now let us talk treatment. What does treatment involve? It involves slowing down the advancement and atherosclerosis. It will try to improve the flow of blood to the extremities and other affected areas. The hope here is that the pain will subside.

What are these treatments then? Hurry up! We like to know. Well, some common recommendations consist of medications to control high blood pressure and cholesterol. Then there is surgery. What will surgery do? It will bypass the obstructed blood vessels to get the blood flowing again.

For relief of pain, the doctor may prescribe aspirin but the first step of course is to bring down the blood sugar level by diet, drugs or insulin. As the blood glucose is brought down the pain may get worse for a while until the blood sugar is maintained. This will help reverse the ache as well as the loss of sensation.

The special care of feet is a crucial part of the treatment. The loss of sensation will not alert the diabetics that something is wrong so examine the feet every day. About 15% of diabetics get foot ulcer and six of every 1000 may have an amputation. The doctors think that 75% of the amputations could be prevented with good foot care.

There are other treatments like hypnosis, biofeedback and acupuncture. Then there is the relaxation training. Walking regularly too can help. So do massages, analgesic ointment, and warm baths. Some people use elastic stockings which can help ease the diabetes leg pain.

Diabetes Leg Pain, Get Some Relief
Diabetes Leg Pain is relieved by doctors with oral medication but there are other treatments. Those whose pain is severe may be helped by a combination of treatment. Talk to the health care team about the options.

Some medications include tricyclic antidepressants like duloxetine, anticonvulsants like pregabalin, and opoids and opoid-like drugs like oxycodone. Pregabalin and duloxetine are FDA approved for painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

All medications have side effects so some are not recommended for those with heart problems. Some do not recommend over the counter drugs like ibuprofen and acetaminophen as they do not work well and have serious side effects.

Treatments can be applied to the skin like capsaicin cream and lidocaine patches. Researches have shown that nitrate patches for the feet and nitrate sprays may ease the pain. Also alpha-lipoic acid and evening primrose oil have relieved the symptoms.

A bed cradle can also keep the blankets and sheets from touching the feet and legs that are sensitive. Then there is biofeedback, acupuncture and physical therapy may ease the pain in some. Some forms of treatment involving laser or light therapy, magnetic therapy and electrical stimulation may help. Researchers are also working on this so please sign up first for free at the top of the page to get tips and alert delivered right to your email inbox.

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