diabetes leg pain
Metabolic Health

Does Diabetes Cause Leg Pain?

Diabetes is a condition that comes with not one or two but several symptoms and complications. These may not always be very obvious. At times, you may not even associate these complications to be related to diabetes. For example, if you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you may often feel dizzy, low on energy, or even have blurry vision. While these are all associated with diabetes and hypoglycemia and symptoms of hyperglycemia, they may sometimes just occur. Similarly, many people with diabetes also complain of frequent headaches. Headaches are very strongly related to, both, low and high sugars. Often, a bout of low sugar levels can be followed by a sharp and splitting headache that is capable of keeping you up all night. 

Additionally, there are many people with diabetes who end up checking their blood sugar levels only after they get a headache and realize that their sugars are high. This is what makes diabetes such a difficult condition to live with. One can never know what new signs or symptoms they might have to deal with. Additionally, these may not even be consistent throughout the condition. There is one more aspect that is very frequently associated – leg pain due to diabetes. Let us read more about leg diabetes symptoms and it's causes.

Diabetes Leg Pain and Cramps

Leg pains associated with diabetes are a common phenomenon that occurs as a result of nerve damage. Diabetic neuropathy, or nerve damage, can cause a series of issues in different parts of the body, including the leg. Diabetic neuropathy symptoms include pain and numbness in the legs, feet and hands. This is called diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Leg pain in diabetes often arises in people who have been experiencing high blood sugars for a long duration. There is a very strong link between diabetes and leg/feet related issues. Even upon the diagnosis, doctors often recommend the newly diagnosed patients to keep a sharp check on their feet and bring to notice any abnormalities like growths, cuts, wounds, warts, etc.

Similarly, these issues like leg pain and cramps are also a result of nerve damage. The physiology behind it is that the increased level of glucose in the blood obstructs the flow of the oxygenated blood to the nerves of the feet leading to pain and cramps that can be intense and acute.

What is Diabetes Leg Pain?

Does diabetes cause leg pain? As simple as it sounds, leg pain due to diabetes can cause intense issues and discomfort for the person going through it. The worst part is that this can happen at any time. For example, imagine you are driving a car and suddenly you feel a sharp pain in your feet because the nerves are pinching against each other causing one toe to press on another! This can lead to so much damage!

Diabetes leg pain can be characterized as an ache in the soles, calves, and even thighs. The pain can, at times, get very acute and can feel like several needles poking into the lower limb. Pains in the leg can also make it very difficult to feel at rest and even walk as every step can cause an ache. One other way in which these could manifest would be due to the formation of sores, ulcers, or compression of nerves in the lower limb area.

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Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes Leg Pain

Leg pain in diabetic patients can differ. In the younger population, it can be different while the older generation of people with diabetes can experience something entirely varied. There are a few aspects that could cover the leg pains associated with diabetes in a wide manner. Essentially, the symptoms often impact the sensations in the leg and the movement of the limbs. It gradually escalates from numbness or tingling in the feet to burning and sharp pain. 

Some other symptoms could be:

  1. Changes in the skin, hair, or nails
  2. Weakness in the muscles
  3. Changes in the blood pressure
  4. Increased time in the healing of wounds
  5. Paralysis of the limbs, in severe cases
  6. Gastrointestinal issues
  7. Shooting, burning, or aching pains.

Some of the other symptoms from these appear in most people with diabetes. They may increase progressively or, if treated well, may not escalate to something irreversible. The action taken to prevent these symptoms would be a vital part of the diabetes goal plan and management.

Why does Diabetes Cause Leg Pain?

One of the primary reasons why there is leg pain in diabetes is because of the uncontrolled sugars. The unusual sensations in the leg begin after a long period of high blood sugars that were not treated on time. When the sugar levels are high, the smaller capillaries delivering blood to the nerves are damaged. These damages often begin at the peripheral parts of the body like the leg and the feet. 

Complications from Diabetes Leg Pain

Addressing the issues related to leg pain is vital for any person with diabetes as it can lead to several long-term and irreparable damage in the later stages of life. Even if the symptoms do not affect the daily routine, frequent cramps and pain can cause difficulties that may even lead to amputation in the worst cases. Peripheral artery disease is another well-known complication that can arise out of these issues. In case the blood vessels in the legs are blocked, one might also get paralyzed and lose sensation in the legs and feet.

Treatment for Diabetes Leg Pain

There are several different methods using which you can treat any leg pains associated with diabetes.

  1. Exercise – The best way to stay healthy and make sure that oxygenated blood is reaching the different parts of your body would be to exercise. It also helps in managing the blood sugar levels overall which may also end up preventing any diabetes-related complications like leg pains. Low-impact workouts, strength training, yoga, or even walking would be highly beneficial
  2. Medication – Several over-the-counter medications can be useful in the treatment of mild to moderate levels of leg pain. However, it would be primary to consult your physician before you pop any pills as the compositions may differ giving rise to more issues.
  3. Diet – Dietary supplements and an overall healthy diet can ease any leg pains and cramps. They provide the essential nutrients to the body that can also help to repair the nerve tissues and prevent further damage. The importance of Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Alpha-lipoic acid, etc. cannot be overstated.
  4. Home remedies – Any home remedies like – walking, massaging calves, hot fermentation, wearing supportive footwear, etc. can be helpful.

Prevention of Diabetes Leg Pain

While it is important to know how to treat any leg pain in diabetic patients, its prevention would always be more important. Why wait for your fever to turn to malaria? Similarly, why wait for leg cramps to turn into something major? Here are a few things can you can do to make sure that your leg pains do not come, or even if they occur, do not escalate:

  1. Control blood sugars – The most important part to avoid any complications, including leg pain diabetes symptoms would be to control the blood sugars. If your sugar levels are maintained at an optimal level more or less constantly, there would be no reason for any inflammation of the blood vessels or nerve damage
  2. Lifestyle – Maintaining a healthy lifestyle including a healthy diet and exercise would again assure that the organs and nerves are repaired and there is no damage. These would also ensure that fresh and oxygenated blood is reaching the extremities of your body
  3. Keeping a check – Do not rule out any pain, spasm, boil, corn, or cuts on the feet. Keep a good eye on the thighs, calves, and feet to make sure to have healthy legs. Visit the doctor if you see anything unusual or experience any splitting pain. 

Bottomline

Taking care of the different organs of your body is important in diabetes management. This means that not only the blood sugars but also the kidneys, feet, heart, fat, weight, etc. need to be monitored in case of a diabetes diagnosis. Understand the vitality of protecting and having healthy legs and feet as these are one of the parts that are first to experience damage. The signs and symptoms of leg pain and cramps can vary- be aware of how your body experiences pain. Prevent and treat any symptoms at the earliest and do not neglect them no matter how minor they may seem.

FAQs

How do you stop diabetic leg pain?

If you are experiencing any leg pain, it would be important to treat it/stop it immediately. Taking pain medication as prescribed by the doctor, massaging the leg, hot fermentation, getting the blood sugars down if they are high, etc. can be good ways to stop the pain.

What does diabetic leg pain feel like?

It can differ in different people, however, most commonly, it can feel like a sharp and shooting pain across the leg. Some may also experience dull throbbing. Some might get them as cramps. Some may feel a needle-like poking, etc.

What is the cause of leg pain in diabetes patients?

The first cause of leg pain in diabetes is high blood sugar. Controlling blood sugars would result in no inflammation of the nerves and therefore, no nerve damage

Does walking help diabetic leg pain?

Yes, at times, walking can help to loosen up the muscles and nerves of the leg that may have been obstructed due to inflammation. It can provide the required oxygen right to the end of the toes.

References

  • https://www.healthline.com/health/diabetes/leg-pain-cramps-treatment#supplements

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