Studies suggest that one in three people in the US have diabetes. In fact, it is possible that these figures are higher as people living in rural areas may not be diagnosed correctly. Diabetes is a condition where your body is unable to regulate the amount of sugar in your blood; this can be due to a lack of insulin being produced or to your body not being able to process the insulin. This can generally be controlled through diet and medication. However, excess sugar in the body, particularly over a long period of time can damage blood vessels and nerves. Nerve damage is referred to as neuropathy; if this is a result of diabetes then it is called diabetic neuropathy; current estimates suggest in excess of 70% of diabetics have diabetic neuropathy.
What Does Diabetic Nerve Pain in the Feet Feel like?
Nerve damage almost always starts at the extremities of your body. This is why the feet are generally the first to be affected; although it is possible in your hands, arms and even your legs. The Initial Stages of pain are:
In the first instance you are likely to experience tingling. This can be either a burning feel or the sensation that you are being pricked many times over with a sharp pin. You will have experienced this before when you have sat in an awkward position and temporarily stopped the blood flow to a hand or foot. The feeling of ‘pins and needles’ as the blood rushes back to your foot is the same as the tingling of diabetic neuropathy; except there is no visible restriction of blood.
It is normal for the foot to then feel numb. This means you will have no sensation. Although this may seem like a relief compared to the tingling pain it is more dangerous. Firstly, this means that your nerves have shut down; this may be temporary but shows they are becoming damaged. Secondly, an inability to feel your feet means you will not be able to feel if you cut yourself. Indeed you may even struggle to walk as you are unable to feel when your foot touches the ground. This can result in you walking like you are intoxicated and an increase in the risk of falling.
- Shooting Pain
It is also possible to feel sharp shooting pains. These will appear suddenly and then randomly. The pain is likely to be deliberating; especially as it is intense and unannounced. It can be likened to the sharp pain of cramp; but worse!
- Temperature Fluctuation
Diabetic neuropathy can cause you to feel warm items as extremely hot, or even extremely cold. This is because the damaged nerves are not able to distinguish correctly between sensations and are reacting in protective mode. Of course, this reaction is likely to cause additional accidents; for instance if you are walking into a pool and the foot bath feels hot you can jump in shock and fall over.
- Pain Spreads
As your condition worsens it is likely that the nerve damage will spread. This means that the sensations you have experienced in your feet can move up your legs. At this point many diabetic neuropathy sufferers have reported that even the simplest movement, such as tapping your foot on the floor can send an excruciating amount of pain across your foot and up your leg.
How to Deal with Diabetic Nerve Pain in the Feet
Nerve damage is generally irreversible. However, it is possible to minimize the future damage being caused to your body. There are several ways in which you can achieve this:
- Blood Sugar
You must monitor your blood sugar regularly and control it. This will prevent it from getting too high and causing damage to any of your nerves; or any additional damage. The best way to do this is to devise a diet, with a good nutritional expert, and stick to it!
Exercise encourages blood flow round the body and helps to ensure all the vital parts have an adequate supply of oxygen. This can help to prevent your nerves from being damaged. More importantly, exercise will burn sugar. This can help to reduce the amount you have in your body; reducing the effects of high blood sugar levels and helping you to manually control your blood sugar level. It has even been suggested that, as exercise lowers the blood sugar level, it can improve the way your body uses insulin. Any pain in your feet should be taken seriously. If it conforms to the symptoms here then you should see a health professional; you may be suffering from diabetes which will need to be assessed and treated.