High glucose (sugar) levels cause damage to the small blood vessels supplying the hands and feet (peripheral neuropathy). Damage to the nerves leads to numbness and lack of sensation. As a result, it is possible that you may not feel injuries to the hands, legs or feet.
Lack of sensation can be dangerous, as cuts and minor injuries can be overlooked because 'they don't hurt'. However, because it is not painful does not mean that the problem is not serious. At worst it can cause ulcers which can require hospitalisation or amputation.
All people with diabetes should have access to a podiatrist (chiropodist), and be reviewed by a podiatrist intermittently if they have a problem with either the blood supply or nerve function (neuropathy). Everyone with diabetes should receive a yearly examination of their feet. See the foot care leaflet.
Effects of diabetic neuropathy include
- Lack of sensation
- Lack of awareness of pain
- Lack of awareness of hot and cold
- Pins and needles
- 'Burning' feelings
- Shooting pains
There are some tablets and creams which may ease pain and burning. Your doctor may prescribe these if your symptoms are troublesome.
Good control of your blood glucose levels is essential to prevent nerve damage - always try to follow your doctor's guidelines.