When you have diabetes, one of the biggest worries you will have is keeping your feet and legs – the very two things you use to get around – healthy. African Americans with diabetes are much more likely to have to undergo a limb amputation. This problem is brought on by diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN), a nerve condition that causes prickling pain or loss of sensation in your feet and legs. And just to give you a sense of how common DPN is, 60 percent of diabetics are expected to develop the condition at some point in their lives.
A person with DPN wouldn’t be able to tell if their shower or bath water was too hot or if they had an object stuck in their shoe the entire day, making them more prone to injuries. Along with DPN, diabetes is one of the factors that increases your risk of peripheral artery disease (PAD), a narrowing of the peripheral arteries to the legs, stomach, arms, and head – most commonly in the arteries of the legs. According to the American Heart Association, PAD is similar to coronary artery disease (CAD).
Other PAD risk factors include:
- If you smoke, you have an especially high risk for PAD.
- People with high blood pressure or high cholesterol are at risk for PAD.
- Your risk increases with age.
The most common symptoms of PAD involving the lower extremities are cramping, pain or tiredness in the leg or hip muscles while walking or climbing stairs. Typically, this pain goes away with rest and returns when you walk again.