What causes Swollen Feet in Diabetics


I’m a diabetic and I’m getting swelling on my feet and ankles. Why does it happen?

You must have heard people in your social circle discuss about diabetes and swollen feet.

Diabetes is a condition caused by lack of a hormone in the body called insulin. In individuals with Type 1 Diabetes no insulin is produced at all and they require regular insulin injections. In individuals with Type 2 Diabetes though there is some insulin produced which is insufficient. Also, the body shows resistance to the effects of insulin. In both the cases, blood glucose levels are elevated.

Diabetics are more prone to certain complications that involve the eye (retinopathy), kidney (nephropathy) and nerves (neuropathy).

Edema (swelling):

Edema is a buildup of fluid in the body i.e. water retention that leads to swelling. This could happen for different reasons including:

  • standing or walking for a long period
  • due to certain medications
  • due to an injury, for example, an ankle injury

Edema may affect any part of the body, be it the legs, ankles, and feet or even the hands.



Swelling and Diabetes:

Extra care and caution is needed for people who have edema and diabetes. Too much sugar in the blood from diabetes can cause nerve damage and poor blood flow, which can lead to serious foot problems. For a diabetic, swelling of the ankles could also be a sign of a serious problem that needs immediate medical attention. Anytime a new swelling is seen, report to the doctor and go for an examination. Preventing foot complications is more critical for a diabetic as poor circulation impairs the healing process. It increases the risk of infections and severe complications like foot ulcers and gangrene. Gangrene might even lead to limb amputation.

Neuropathy (damage to the nerves) is a common problem with diabetes. Due to circulation problems, the heart fails to circulate adequate amounts of blood, the kidneys retain sodium to help the body hold on to water and increase the volume of blood. This leads to swelling and is a precursor to congestive heart failure.

What to do if you have Edema and Diabetes:

Elevate your feet – Using extra pillows keep your feet above the heart level for at least 15-20 minutes every day. This helps to reduce the swelling as it drains out excess fluid from the surrounding tissues.

Wear stockings – wear stockings that apply gentle pressure on your legs. It helps to get rid of the excess fluid and also can help move blood through your legs to prevent swelling and improve blood circulation.

Lower dietary salt intake – It is advisable to reduce the salt in your daily diet as salt increases blood pressure.

Foot massage – Massaging your feet with a diabetic foot cream often helps to reduce swelling and the associated pain.

Daily foot care can prevent serious problems.

Avoid long hours of continuous sitting, standing or walking.

Check your feet everyday for cuts, sores, blisters, red spots, swelling, or infected toenails and consult your physician immediately in case these don’t heal in a day.

Wear sturdy, comfortable shoes and avoid walking barefoot as much as possible.

Exercise regularly to improve bone and joint health in your feet and legs.

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