Type 2 diabetes can cause you to experience several symptoms if the condition becomes more serious, including leg pain.
You may experience tingling sensations in your arms or legs, high blood pressure, fatigue, blurred vision, poor nighttime vision, or numbness or pain in your hands, feet, or legs. These symptoms can develop into more complicated and serious health conditions if you ignore them and don’t seek treatment.
Type 2 diabetes complications include:
Hand, feet, or limb complications
Focusing on your symptoms and managing them effectively will lower your chances of developing progressive diabetes health problems. For example, unacknowledged and untreated type 2 diabetes-related leg pain could lead to advanced leg or foot issues. Ultimately, you could face amputation.
Find out more about diabetes-related leg pain and how you can manage your diabetes to slow or prevent complications.
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When type 2 diabetes is not managed correctly, nerves in various body parts can become damaged. Consistently high blood sugar levels over an extended period can damage the blood vessels that supply your nerves.
Nerve fibers can become damaged or disappear altogether if they don’t receive the nutrients they need to function. Any body part can develop problems due to damaged nerves, not just your legs.
The motor nerves in your body control movement. Motor neuropathy is a condition that occurs when your motor nerves are damaged, leading to:
Muscle weakness, atrophy, twitching, and cramps
Poor coordination and balance
Motor neuropathy may increase your risk of falls and reduce your manual dexterity.
Sensory nerves allow you to feel temperature, pain, and touch. Sensory neuropathy occurs when sensory nerves are damaged, causing numbness.
Sensory neuropathy could affect your ability to feel pain or sensations when you touch something. This can make you less sensitive to extreme temperatures and pain. It can also reduce your manual dexterity.
The following symptoms may indicate you have nerve damage in your legs:
Tingling in your feet or lower legs
A burning sensation
Your feet get very cold or hot
Your feet are very sensitive
Loss of sensation in your lower legs and feet
Weakened muscle tone in your legs and feet
Loss of sensation in the lower legs and feet is a serious health concern, so you must see a doctor about it straight away.
Feeling very little or no sensation might mean you don’t notice sustaining lacerations or blisters. You might leave them untreated as a result. These wounds can develop infections or remain unhealed for a long time, possibly developing into more serious medical complications.
You should monitor how your leg pain and neuropathy symptoms progress so that more serious complications don’t occur.
Complications from diabetic nerve damage in your legs may include:
You may feel unsteady as you try to move your legs because you can’t feel the position of your joints. This could lead to a fall.
One out of five falls¹ causes limb or head injuries. Complications from a fall may include fractures to your hips, arms, ankles, or wrists, or you may sustain injuries to your head or brain.
Feeling unsteady when you move may also cause you to become less active because you fear falling. This is cyclical. Your leg muscles will weaken with reduced activity, increasing your chance of falling.
Normally, feeling pain in your legs and feet tells you something is wrong. For example, you would feel pain if you stepped on a piece of glass. You would then realize the wound needs treatment and monitoring for signs of infection.
Sustaining an injury without being able to feel pain in your legs or feet — such as in uncontrolled type 2 diabetes — may lead to an infection. If you don’t know you have an injury, you won’t seek medical treatment or check that it’s healing.
This scenario can happen with any kind of laceration on your legs or feet. Blisters and sores on your feet can also cause complications if you’re unaware of them.
Amputation is a serious clinical outcome that can occur as a result of diabetes neuropathy.
Globally, a limb is amputated every 30 seconds² because of diabetes. Approximately 2 million people in the US have lost a limb because their wounds or sores did not heal or infections developed.
Depending on the condition of non-healing wounds or infections, doctors will remove the smallest amount of tissue possible. If the tissue amputation wound does not heal or blood flow is restricted, further amputation may be required to remove more tissue.
Once you have received a diagnosis for your diabetes-related nerve damage symptoms, your doctor will recommend medications, dietary supplements, or home remedies to help manage your condition.
In moderate to severe cases, your doctor may prescribe the following medications
Lyrica (pregabalin): An anticonvulsant drug prescribed to decrease nerve signals and reduce pain.
Cymbalta (duloxetine): A serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) prescribed to increase serotonin and norepinephrine levels in your brain and manage pain and any other abnormal sensations, such as tingling or pins and needles.
Tapentadol or tramadol: Opioids are prescribed to change how the brain and nervous system react to pain by interrupting nerve pain and altered sensation signals between your brain and body.
The results of some clinical studies³ carried out over the past five years have indicated that certain dietary supplements may help prevent or even reverse symptoms of diabetes neuropathy. However, more tests and studies need to be done before this is considered a proven therapy option.
The following dietary supplements have shown the most promising results:
Vitamin B 12
You must consult your doctor before taking any dietary or herbal supplement or over-the-counter medication to try to relieve your diabetes neuropathy symptoms. Your doctor can tell you if the product is safe for you to take, as some supplements and medications interact with others and cause harmful effects.
Exercising and improving your diet can help you manage your diabetes-related leg pain.
Increasing physical activity will improve blood flow in your legs, providing vital oxygen and nutrients.
The following activities can help you manage your symptoms of diabetic neuropathy and increase or maintain muscle mass. You may even be able to do these activities if you have an injury, but check with your doctor first.
Light to moderate daily activities, like chores and gardening
Eating a balanced diet can help keep your blood sugar at safe and consistent levels, helping reduce nerve inflammation. It may also help reduce or prevent further nerve damage.
With type 2 diabetes, taking steps to control your high blood sugar levels is the only way you can prevent diabetes-related symptoms in your legs. Consistent, normal blood sugar levels will reduce your chance of sustaining sensory and motor nerve damage.
Doing moderately intensive exercise for 150 minutes a week will help control your blood sugar levels and prevent nerve damage and leg pain. You could try swimming, gentle walking, cycling, or aerobics.
Eating a well-balanced diet with lean proteins, fruits, non-starchy vegetables, and complex carbohydrates will help control your blood sugar levels and prevent diabetes neuropathy and leg pain.
Your doctor may prescribe diabetes medication (like insulin) to help regulate your blood sugar levels and prevent complications, such as diabetic neuropathy.
If you have been diagnosed with diabetic neuropathy in your legs, you should monitor your legs and feet regularly to check for injuries.
Speak to your doctor if you develop any of the following symptoms:
Swelling in your feet
An ulcer or sore that lasts longer than a week
Redness or skin discoloration
An unpleasant odor from a wound
Warmth in one area of your foot
Leg pain can be a symptom of type 2 diabetes. It is caused when high blood sugar levels damage the nerves in your legs and feet. Untreated, type 2 diabetes can lead to advanced leg or foot issues and, ultimately, amputation.
Leg pain and other type 2 diabetes complications can be very unpleasant, but you can limit their progression with lifestyle changes or medication. You can also take steps to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
Controlling your blood sugar levels with a healthy diet, moderate physical activity, and medication can lower your chances of developing complications, including diabetic neuropathy.
Facts about falls | Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Sources not linked above:
Type 2 diabetes | National Institute of Health
Peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage) | Diabetes UK
What to know about diabetes and amputation | Medical News Today
Diabetes leg pain: Everything you need to know | Medical News Today
Cymbalta (duloxetine) | Medical News Today
Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) | Healthline
Lyrica (pregabalin) | Medical News Today
Tramadol | Health Direct
Exercising with diabetes complications | American Diabetes Association
Weekly exercise targets | American Diabetes Association