One of the most common symptoms associated with diabetes is cold feet. While this isn’t necessarily dangerous by itself, you should take notice of it and take steps to treat your diabetes before cold feet turn into worse symptoms.
Diabetics should take care when treating cold feet with heat. The feeling can be hampered in the feet, which can easily lead to burns when attempting to ease the cold.
If you can relate to this, we’ve got you covered! We’ve done some research on diabetes and cold feet, so let’s have a look at why your feet feel cold and some ways to treat them safely.
Why Does Diabetes Cause Foot Problems?
People who suffer from diabetes are at increased risk of developing foot problems, although this usually occurs after a long time of mismanagement of the condition.
When your blood sugar levels are high, your body works overtime to bring them down. Even if you’re on medication, your body is constantly over-working to stabilize your blood sugar.
As diabetes progresses and your body continues to stabilize itself, it causes damage to the blood vessels and nerves because of excess glucose in the blood.
In turn, this can cause various organs and parts of the body to be affected. The heart is often impacted as it becomes weakened by overworking to help regulate the effects of high blood sugar.
Since the feet are so far away from the heart, they typically suffer when the circulatory system is compromised.
You may notice sensations such as tingling, pain, cold, or your feet may go numb or have a reduced response to stimuli. These are because of nerve damage.
This can make it more difficult to notice when you have injuries like scratches, cuts, blisters, and bruises; which can quickly develop into chronic conditions or become infected, leading to worse foot conditions.
Causes of Cold Feet From Diabetes
As well as strange sensations, one of the most common symptoms people with diabetes report is having cold feet. There are two main reasons for this.
As the heart and blood vessels are often damaged in people with diabetes, circulation in the feet—the furthest body part from the heart—can be impaired.
This can contribute to the feeling of being cold, as warm blood is no longer moving close to the surface of the feet.
People with diabetes are also more susceptible to developing peripheral artery disease—PAD—which causes arteries to narrow, reducing blood flow.
The cold feeling can be compounded if you don’t wear appropriate socks and footwear.
As diabetes progresses and causes damage to nerves, it impairs the nerves’ ability to send signals to the brain.
This can result in the brain receiving incorrect signals from the body, which can cause a variety of strange sensations in various body parts, but most commonly in the feet.
Sensations can include pain, tingling, “pins and needles”, numbness, heat, and cold. When paired with poor circulation, the cold feeling may be intensified.
Diabetic neuropathy is also dangerous as it makes people with diabetes prone to not noticing foot and lower leg injury, which leaves them open to infection.
Diabetic neuropathy occurs in about ⅓ to ½ of people who suffer from diabetes.
How to Treat Cold Feet From Diabetes
1. Keep Your Blood Sugar Levels Under Control
The first and most obvious step to treating your cold feet is to keep your blood sugar levels under control.
If you keep your diabetes under control, you’ll find that you have fewer symptoms, and when they do occur, they’re less severe.
You should be testing your blood sugar daily. If you find that you’re having trouble keeping your blood sugar levels under control, you should see your doctor.
They may be able to make changes to your medication to help you control your levels, which in turn will keep your cold feet at bay.
2. Control Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels
People with diabetes are up to four times as likely as others to develop high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
This is because consistent high blood sugar places strain on the body—especially the circulatory system—and can cause permanent damage to the heart and blood vessels.
If you have diabetes, you should take care to control your blood pressure and cholesterol as well as your blood sugar.
Diabetics should ask their doctor about going onto hypertension or cholesterol medication if necessary.
You should also incorporate healthy nutrition habits and regular exercise. Monitoring your food intake will help you to avoid fatty foods that could contribute to high cholesterol and regular moderate cardiovascular exercise will strengthen both the immune system and the cardiovascular system.
Around 150 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise per week can be beneficial for more than just a healthy lifestyle. Incorporating this into your workout routine will greatly impact the effects of cold feet.
The American Heart Association also recommends doing muscle-strengthening exercise at least 2 days a week.
Both of these types of exercise can help to improve blood flow, which may reduce the cold feeling in your feet.
You should also try to “exercise” your feet regularly during the day, even if you’re sitting down.
If you can, take a short walk every hour or so. If walking isn’t an option, you should try to wiggle your toes in your shoes and move your ankles in circles.
4. Wear Warm Socks
Wearing warm, insulated socks can help to keep your feet warm. You should try to get into a habit of wearing socks or slippers even when you’re indoors, especially if your home is tiled or has wooden floors.
You should make sure that your socks are seamless, padded, and always clean to prevent any chance of blisters or infection.
5. Foot Baths
You can warm your feet up by having a foot bath. However, you will need to be careful that the water isn’t too hot, as impaired feeling in the feet may lead to accidental burns.
You should always test the water on your hands and wrists before placing your feet into a foot bath. If you can comfortably hold your hands—including your wrists—in the water without needing to remove them, it should be all right for your feet.
You should always pay attention to your feet while they’re in the water and make sure they aren’t changing color. If your feet become red, the water may still be too hot.
Once you have the right temperature water, you can soak your feet for 10 to 15 minutes. This will also help to increase circulation, so the effects can last longer than the 15 minutes of the foot bath.
6. Lose Weight
Diabetes and obesity are closely linked. If you’re overweight, losing weight can help to reduce pressure on the feet, as well as improve circulation.
Reducing your overall body weight may also help to improve your blood sugar. Reduced weight means less stress on the body, and changes to one’s diet can have a significant positive effect on blood sugar levels.
Losing weight also means that your blood pressure and cholesterol are likely to improve. In general, improved health can help to stabilize blood sugar levels, reducing symptoms like cold feet.
Losing weight is a long-term process, but incorporating regular exercise and healthy nutrition into your daily life is the first step.
7. Reduce Smoking and Drinking
Those who smoke and drink excessive amounts of alcohol are at a higher risk of both diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Diabetes causes damage to blood vessels, which impairs the body’s ability to carry oxygen-rich blood to the extremities.
Smoking also inhibits the blood vessels’ ability to transport oxygen, which negatively affects circulation and can speed up nerve damage.
Giving up smoking in all forms is one of the best things you can do to reduce and manage the symptoms of diabetes.
Alcohol can cause a spike in blood sugar, so reducing your alcohol intake can help your blood sugar to stay stable.