diabetic neuropathy photo

Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy, a condition in which nerve function deteriorates in the body's extremities, leads to a gradual loss of feeling in the hands, arms, legs, and feet. Patients may experience numbness, loss of feeling, pain (e.g., tingling, shooting pain, burning sensation), and weakness in the extremities.

Without the ability to feel pain, patients often do not seek timely treatment for cuts, bruises, burns, or blisters that heal poorly due to diabetes-related circulatory problems. Because of this, minor foot conditions (e.g., calluses, blisters, small cuts) can worsen and become infected.

Patients with diabetes should wash their feet daily in warm water and should inspect them regularly, using a mirror to check the bottom of the feet. Hot water should be avoided because it can cause burns and dry skin. Moisturizing lotion may be used, but should not be applied between toes because it can promote the growth of bacteria and fungal infections.

Patients should avoid going barefoot and wearing open-toed shoes to reduce the risk for cuts and infections and injury. Socks made from natural fibers (e.g., cotton) are preferable to synthetic fabrics because they are breathable and provide better cushioning. Tight-fitting elastic-topped socks inhibit circulation and should not be worn.

Shoes should fit properly and should be made of soft, breathable materials, such as canvas or leather. New shoes should be broken in gradually and worn for short periods of time until they become soft enough to avoid causing blisters. Custom-molded orthotics can help to relieve pressure and reduce irritation.