Diabetes and Foot Pain

Diabetes is a disease in which your body doesn’t make enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps your cells use the sugar (glucose) in your blood to produce energy.

According to KniseWorks, when you have diabetes, high blood sugar damages the nerves and blood vessels in your feet. This causes numbness or pain in your feet and legs.

Poor Blood Circulation

The circulatory system is the network of blood vessels that brings blood, oxygen, and other vital nutrients to your body’s cells. When blood flows properly, your cells get the fuel needed to function, and waste is removed.

When your circulation is poor, you’ll likely notice a lack of energy and discomfort in your feet or legs. Those symptoms are often caused by a condition called peripheral artery disease (PAD), which occurs when the walls of your arteries become narrowed and stiff because plaque builds up on them.

PAD is more common in people who smoke or have diabetes and is a condition that can lead to heart attacks or strokes if not treated. Treatment usually includes medications and minimally invasive cath labs procedures like angioplasty or stenting.

In addition to reducing the risk of PAD, maintaining a healthy diet and being physically active can help improve blood flow throughout your body. Walking is a great way to increase your heart rate and promote the growth of new blood vessels in your feet and lower body, which can also boost circulation.

Other causes of poor circulation include clots in the veins and varicose veins, which are damaged veins that look enlarged near the surface of your skin. The clots can form anywhere in your body, but they’re most commonly found in the legs. They can clog the veins and cause foot pain, swelling, numbness, or tingling in your legs.


Diabetes can cause damage to nerves in your feet and legs, a condition called peripheral neuropathy. This can lead to numbness, tingling, and pain in your feet, legs, and toes.

Diabetic neuropathy may also make your skin more prone to infections. This can increase your risk of developing a foot sore that doesn’t heal or an ulcer that gets infected and spreads to the bloodstream, which could lead to gangrene.

The first step in diagnosing diabetic neuropathy is determining whether you are experiencing symptoms. A doctor can do this by asking you questions about your symptoms, checking your family and medical history, performing a physical exam, and running tests to see if there is a problem with your nerves.

If a doctor finds you experiencing nerve problems, they will likely recommend treatments. These include medications to control your diabetes and treat your pain, such as pregabalin (Lyrica) or duloxetine (Cymbalta).

People with diabetic neuropathy can also develop small-fiber polyneuropathy, a painful condition that affects the tiny fibers in the spinal cord and brain that transmit pain and temperature sensations. This condition can be very painful, especially when it occurs at night, making it difficult to sleep.

In addition, diabetic neuropathy can lead to a condition called autonomic neuropathy, which causes changes in your body’s automatic functions, such as sweating. This can cause thickened and dry skin and change how your nails grow.

People with diabetic neuropathy can prevent these foot problems by taking good care of their feet, ensuring that they have proper circulation, and staying active. In addition, people with diabetes should get regular foot exams to identify problems early.

Damaged Arteries

Diabetes is a disease that affects many parts of your body, including your feet. It may cause a lot of foot pain, especially when your blood circulation is poor.

When your blood flow is restricted, it can make it harder for wounds to heal and infections to kill. This can lead to serious foot problems like ulcers and gangrene.

It can also cause nerve damage, known as diabetic neuropathy. It can lead to numbness in your feet and legs. This numbness makes it difficult to feel a pebble inside your shoe or a blister on your foot, so you can’t take care of them immediately.

In addition to the numbness, diabetes can damage the arches in your feet. This can lead to a condition called Charcot foot, which can change the shape of your foot.

Another foot problem that can be caused by diabetes is motor neuropathy, which affects the nerves in your muscles. This can result in walking imbalances that can cause rubbing of the foot in your shoe, inflammation of the skin, and callous formation.

Symptoms of motor neuropathy usually get better with physical therapy and using foot rolling devices. However, if the nerves are damaged to the point that they can no longer function properly, surgery is sometimes needed to correct the problem.

People with diabetes are more susceptible to vascular diseases, such as peripheral artery disease (PAD). These can lead to cramping in your legs and feet and can even cause the loss of a limb or amputation. Treatments for vascular disease aim to improve blood flow and help you avoid life-threatening complications.


Calluses are areas of thickened skin that develop to protect a part of the foot from injury. They typically appear on the sole of the foot (underneath the surface), particularly around the toes, as your weight goes through these parts when you walk.

Most adults – men and women – will have a callus at some point in their lives. They are not dangerous and help prevent blisters but can become painful if they get too thick or deep.

They can make it hard to stand or walk. They may also sting, burn, or throb.

People with diabetes often develop calluses on their feet. These can be caused by a variety of factors, including the way they walk (their gait), their shoes, and the bone structure of their feet.

The callus will usually be shaped like a small round ball or a plug of tissue that forms on the outside of a toe or heel. It will have a tough core that feels very hard to the touch.

Your doctor can trim it to relieve pain and redistribute pressure between the toes. They can also advise you on suitable footwear and help you treat calluses at home with moisturizing cream a little at a time.

If your condition is severe, your doctor can have you see a podiatrist (a foot specialist). A podiatrist can remove the callus, redistribute pressure with soft padding or strapping, and change shoes.

It is important to avoid self-treating calluses or corns if you have diabetes, poor circulation, or fragile skin. These conditions can cause blood flow problems or numbness in the foot, so you should not use any treatment on them without consulting your doctor first.


Diabetic foot ulcers are a common problem among people with diabetes. They develop when the skin on your feet becomes damaged from long-standing high blood sugar levels, poor circulation, and nerve damage (neuropathy).

Often, diabetic foot ulcers look like blisters or burns that don’t heal well. But in some cases, they may grow into open wounds larger than a pea or a Cheerio. They might be black, and that’s because cells in the tissue have died from a lack of healthy blood flow to the area around it.

The best way to prevent ulcers is to keep your blood sugar in check. You should also watch what you eat and avoid foods that make your ulcers worse.

If your doctor diagnoses you with an ulcer, he or she will work with you to develop a treatment plan to help your ulcers heal. Your doctor may prescribe medications, such as anti-inflammatory drugs or enzymes, to help your ulcer heal.

You might also need to wear special shoes or casts, use foot braces, or put compression wraps on your feet. This can relieve pressure on your ulcer and speed up its healing.

Your doctor might also recommend surgery if your ulcer is not healing or infected. This involves removing the dead tissue or bone from your ulcer, allowing it to heal more quickly.

Ulcers are a serious problem in people with diabetes, but they can be treated successfully. Your doctor will work with you to make changes in your diet, medication, and lifestyle that can lower your risk of developing ulcers. He or she will also teach you ways to treat existing ulcers.