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Causes of Leg Pain in Diabetes

Authored by Debra Cornelius in Diseases
Published on 09-22-2009

The most common cause of leg pain in people with diabetes is due to peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neropathy is one in a family of nerve disorders caused by diabetes.Though nerve damage can occur in any and all organs and systems of the body, peripheral neropathy is the most common. As many as 70% of people diagnosed with diabetes will develop some type of neropathy.

Individuals having been diagnosed with diabetes for 25 years or more will most likely experience leg pain due to peripheral neropathy. Those at increased risk are diabetics with uncontrolled blood sugar, high blood pressure and excessive weight.

Signs and Symptoms

Leg pain in diabetics is often worst at night and may include:

  • Numbness or insensitivity to heat or cold
  • A tinging, burning or prickling sensation in the toes, feet and legs
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Loss of balance or coordination

There is no current treatment to reverse nerve damage caused by peripheral neropathy at this time. If you are experiencing any symptoms of nerve damage you should discuss treatment options with your doctor. Early treatment and intervention may delay or possibly prevent further damage.

Treatment Options

The most important treatment involves working closely with your doctor to bring blood sugar levels under control. This often means a combination of blood sugar monitoring, meal planning, regular exercise and diabetes medication or insulin.

Referral to a foot specialist may be recommended. Because the same nerve damage causing leg pain in diabetics also causes a loss of sensation in the feet, close observation and monitoring is needed to prevent foot damage or infection that could go unnoticed. Untreated wounds to the feet and legs can easily lead to severe complications including amputation.

Pain relief may require oral medications. Discuss your pain levels and symptoms with your doctor before taking any over the counter pain medications. Often an oral pain medication is only needed at night but there may be times that a combination of oral medication and other forms of treatment such as physical therapy may be helpful.

Leg pain in diabetics can be caused by decreased circulation without peripheral neropathy. Preventative measures that protect already decreased circulation may be something as simple as changing to a non-constrictive sock. Special shoes can improve circulation to the legs and decrease intermittent leg pain.

If you work at a job that has you either sitting or standing for extended periods of time, this can increase you chance of leg pain at night. Take breaks as often as possible during the day. If you are working in a standing position, find a place to get your feet propped up during breaks.

When working at a desk all day find opportunities to get up and walk a few moments at least once an hour whenever possible. The simple act of changing your position and getting active will also help decrease the frequency and duration of leg pain at night.

There is no way at this time to totally prevent the leg pain diabetics experience as a result of peripheral neropathy or other causes. With early diagnosis and treatment of diabetes the onset of such problems may be significantly slowed or lessened. Ongoing monitoring and discussing changes in your condition and treatment options will keep you on your feet pain free as long as possible.

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