Diabetic Neuropathy – Why Do My Feet Hurt?

Ever wonder why Diabetic Foot Assessments are required? How does diabetes affect your foot health? What does it have to do with Podiatry? Diabetic Neuropathy simply put is a loss of protective sensation resulting from damage to the nerves over time. Approximately half the patients with diabetes will experience neuropathy.

Types of Neuropathy

·      Peripheral Neuropathy – sometimes referred to as Sensory Neuropathy , it results from nerve damage to the peripheral nerves which may cause feelings of numbness and pain to feet and hands.

·      Autonomic Neuropathy – The function of your autonomic system is to maintain your body’shomeostasis (balanced state). Damage to these nerves that control your internal organs can lead to problems with many of your body systems – from the digestive system, bladder, heart rate and blood pressure.

·      Proximal Neuropathy – usually experienced by the elderly population with diabetes, this is the second most common type of diabetic neuropathy. The nerve damage affects muscles in the upper part of the leg, buttocks and hips.

·      Focal Neuropathy – the above neuropathies are all known as polyneuropathy where the word ‘poly’ means many nerves are affected. Focal neuropathy is where damage has occurred to single nerves, this is often in the hand, leg or head, an example of focal neuropathy is carpal tunnel syndrome.


What is the cause of Diabetic Neuropathy?

The major cause has been thought to be an increase in high blood glucose (blood sugar) and high levels of lipids (fats/triglycerides) in the blood which can lead to damage of the nerves.

What are the treatments available for Diabetic Neuropathy?

The damaged nerves cannot be repaired. However, it is important to ensure risk of further complications are reduced. Please remember

·      Good foot and nail hygiene – this means regular, consistent inspection of your feet to look for early signs of potential problems

·      Seek assistance early – if you have complications, it is always better to seek treatment early i.e. early treatment of foot ulcers provides a better opportunity for it heal.

·      Appropriate footwear – it is vital that you choose appropriate footwear that are fitted well to the shape of your feet – often we look at the length of the shoes but not necessarily the width!


A referral to a Podiatrist may be appropriate if you have diabetes, this will ensure appropriate assessment and ongoing preventative management of any foot complications.


What resources are available to you for more information?

·      Your GP

·      Podiatrist

·      Diabetes Australia Victoria