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Diabetes Health Center

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How Diabetes Causes Foot Problems - Topic Overview

How do problems start?

Because foot disease in diabetes usually begins with neuropathy, your first step in preventing foot problems should be addressing problems with your nerves. Neuropathy causes problems in your feet by disrupting your nerves, both reducing your sensation of pain and causing problems with the way you walk. Such problems can damage your feet in the following ways:

  • Reduced sensation prevents you from sensing pain and realizing that your foot has been injured. Poor eyesight can also reduce your ability to detect foot injuries and infections. For example, you may have a blister and not realize it because you don't feel any pain from it or see the blister. Without treatment, this injury may progress to infection.
  • Your feet are at risk for problems that arise from poor muscular control. If your nerves are no longer able to carry signals that mean the appropriate motion of your feet and lower legs while you walk, your body may compensate by forcing your feet to adopt unnatural positions while you move. Changing the way you walk increases your risk of getting foot ulcers and deformities. Your feet may become deformed and misshapen if you walk abnormally for an extended period of time. In fact, about half of all people with diabetes have a hammer toe or claw toe deformity slideshow.gif or a Charcot foot deformity, caused by an abnormal walk. See a picture of Charcot foot camera.gif.
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