High glucose levels cause damage to the small blood vessels supplying the hands and feet (this is called ‘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 your hands, legs or feet. This can be dangerous, as cuts and minor injuries can be overlooked because they don't hurt.
However, just because it is not painful does not mean that the problem is not serious. At worst, it can cause foot ulcers which, if not treated early enough, can require hospitalisation or, in the worst cases, amputation.
If you have diabetes you should see a podiatrist regularly and should have your feet screened once a year. It is very important that you take good care of your feet to reduce the risk of developing problems. In addition, it is essential that you keep good control of your blood glucose levels to prevent nerve damage. More advice on this can be found here.
The 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 diabetes care team may prescribe these if your symptoms are troublesome.