If you are diabetic and your feet hurt or you've lost sensation in your lower extremities, you may have peripheral neuropathy, a type of nerve damage to which diabetics are very vulnerable. Peripheral neuropathy increases your risk for developing foot ulcers or losing a limb, so it's a condition you'll want to take very seriously.
Why Does Diabetes Affect Sensation In Your Feet?
When you have peripheral neuropathy, sensation in your feet practically disappears. Nothing phases you...not a cut, not even stepping on a nail. In fact, you could have an open wound and not realize that you've been injured, which is part of what makes this condition so dangerous.
So, why does it happen? The answer, unfortunately, isn't simple. For diabetics, high blood sugars likely damage nerves and their ability to send signals sensing pain. In addition, the small vessels attached to your main arteries sustain damage due to microvascular disease. When that happens, the vessels stop sending oxygenated blood to your nerves, and they begin to fail, taking your sensation along with them.
How Can I Manage my Neuropathy?
While this loss of sensation can be scary, here's some good news: light to moderate exercise can prevent neuropathy or delay its progression. But, since you have decreased sensation with peripheral neuropathy, you have exercise caution when you work out, since you might not notice when your shoes are rubbing and causing blisters, or when you've cut yourself brushing against some heavy equipment.
After all, for a diabetic, even a small injury like the two we just mentioned could be devastating if left unnoticed. So exercise is a double-edged sword for diabetics with neuropathy. So, how can you exercise safely without compromising your diabetic foot health?
Three Tips for Safe Exercise With Neuropathy
If you want to stay active while dealing with decreased sensation in your feet, it's crucial to discuss your exercise plans with your medical team. Once you've been cleared for activity, these helpful tips should prevent a simple workout from becoming a major foot problem for you.
1. Practice Daily Foot Care
When you are exercising regularly, make sure you inspect your feet. Every. Day. And take extra care when selecting your athletic shoes, making sure the fit of your sneakers is excellent. In fact, consider going to a specialty store in order to be fitted correctly instead of buying something off the shelf and hoping it fits. You should also stick to socks made for athletic activity, since they will reduce rubbing and keep wick moisture away from your feet.
2. Be Cautious about Weight Lifting
One hard and fast rule: don't lift weight if you have any type of foot injury or ulcer. And, if your neuropathy is severe, your doctor may tell you to skip weight bearing activities altogether, as gentle walking workouts will be a less risky option for you.
3. Check your Balance
Another delightful side effect of peripheral neuropathy? The loss of sensation can compromise your ability to balance, which means your are more likely to fall during a workout. Be sure to secure your balance and workout in safe surroundings before working up a sweat.
Exercising is important for everyone, but it is especially crucial for diabetics beginning to feel the effects of neuropathy and loss of sensation. If you have diabetes and want to begin a safe exercise program, schedule an appointment at our Elmhurst podiatry practice today. We can help you create a safe, individualized plan to help manage your neuropathy symptoms while avoiding further injury.