The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

8 Signs of Diabetes As Evidenced by Your Lower Limbs

Posted by on Monday, September 10th, 2018

If you’re experiencing problems in your lower limbs, these could be signs of diabetes. For some, diabetes feels like an unquenchable thirst, increased hunger after eating, frequent urination, and dry mouth. For others, symptoms include cold feet, pain in calf muscles, and numb feet. According to statistics, 24% of diabetics are undiagnosed—that’s about 8 million people. The good news is that diabetes is totally manageable as long as you catch it early and are willing to make a few lifestyle modifications to keep yourself in good shape. Often times, our NYC podiatrists at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine are the first to diagnose patients after noticing signs of diabetes.

signs of diabetes
If it’s summer and your feet are cold, that’s a tell-tale circulation problem. More specifically, a type of nerve damage called peripheral neuropathy that often occurs from diabetes may be the culprit behind your cold feet. [Image courtesy: Shutterstock]

Top Signs of Diabetes in the Lower Limbs

1. Coldness in the summer

If it’s summer and your feet are cold, that’s a tell-tale circulation problem. More specifically, a type of nerve damage called peripheral neuropathy that often occurs from diabetes may be the culprit behind your cold feet. Resist the urge to go barefoot or wear sandals in the summer, as any injury to the foot can be catastrophic for a diabetic.

Other possible causes of perpetually cold feet may include:

  • Arteriosclerosis
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon

2. Pain in the calf muscles while walking

Leg pain and cramping can result from poor circulation and nerve damage called diabetic neuropathy. Pain, burning, tingling, and numbness are other common symptoms. This can sometimes occur in the arms as well. Sometimes the pain is so severe that the only way to stop the cramps is to stop moving.

Other possible causes of leg cramps include:

  • Overexertion and muscle fatigue
  • Failing to stretch
  • Magnesium or Potassium deficiency
  • Dehydration
  • Spinal cord injury or pinched nerve

3. Numb feet

In addition to the cold sensation, some people experience a numb “pins-and-needles” feeling in the feet—or they may feel nothing at all. About half of diabetics experience this type of nerve pain. Generally speaking, neuropathy is caused by poor blood sugar control over a long period of time.

Other causes of numb feet include:

  • Vitamin B deficiency
  • Peripheral Vascular Disease
  • Compressed nerves (often from footwear)
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

4. Hair loss on the feet or legs

Diabetes interrupts the hair growth cycle through poor blood glucose management, hormonal imbalances, and stress.

Other causes of hair loss include:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Peripheral Artery Disease
  • Poor circulation
  • Chronic rashes
  • Fungal infections
  • Pituitary gland disorders
  • Hormonal changes
  • Stress
  • Deficiency in Iron, Zinc, or Vitamin D

5. Brittle toenails

Circulation problems associated with diabetes can cause the nails to break easily.

Other causes of brittle toenails include:

  • Aging
  • Anemia
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Fungal infections
  • B Vitamin deficiency

6. Slow-healing wounds

High glucose levels stiffen blood vessels, making it harder for blood, nutrients, and oxygen to reach the cells. Long-term lack of oxygen can cause cells to die, leading to necrosis and amputation. Numbness caused by neuropathy makes it difficult to tell if you’ve been injured, so unless you’re constantly checking your feet, a problem can go unnoticed for a while. Thirdly, diabetics produce enzymes and hormones that diminish the efficiency of the immune system. Diabetics can expect more infections and longer healing times.

Other causes of slow-healing wounds may include:

  • Poor oxygenation
  • Infection
  • Age and sex
  • Stress
  • Obesity
  • Medications
  • Alcohol use
  • Smoking
  • Poor nutrition

7. Pale blue color on the leg skin

People with lighter skin tones may notice their legs look almost pale blue. This cyanosis is caused by low oxygen in the blood.

Other causes of blue skin on the legs include:

  • Raynaud’s syndrome
  • Cyanide poisoning
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Arteriosclerosis
  • Asthma
  • Emphysema
  • Deep vein thrombosis and blood clots
  • Buerger’s disease
  • Circulatory shock

8. Dry, itchy legs or cracked skin on the feet

Poor circulation can make the legs dry and itchy. Changes in blood vessels can cause the skin to crack. If you have diabetes, you must take special precautions to prevent the skin from breaking. The skin is your body’s best barrier to infection. For diabetics, routine infections can be life-threatening.

Having Signs of Diabetes in Your Lower Limb?

Contact NYC podiatrists at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine if you have any concerns about your lower limbs or questions about diabetes. Our staff is comprised of board-certified surgeons and state-of-the-art technology to rehabilitate our patients quickly and effectively.

If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.