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What is the Connection Between Diabetes and Swollen Feet?

By Terrie Brockmann
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Several physical disorders may cause a connection between diabetes and swollen feet. Excessive fluid deposited in the muscles and tissues leads to swelling. For diabetics, one of the most common underlying culprits is neuropathy, which is a degenerative disease that affects the nervous system. Another very serious disorder, nephropathy, a disease of the kidneys, also causes swollen ankles and feet. In addition, there are other problems, such as peripheral vascular disease, that produce swollen feet in diabetics.

Although there are many reasons for having swollen feet, diabetes and its related complications are some of the main reasons. Sometimes, slight swelling is a result of walking and standing too much. A more serious condition, like neuropathy, may cause the blood vessels in the legs and feet to not constrict and relax normally. This dysfunction triggers the fluid buildup.

Neuropathy-damaged nerves cannot send signals of pain and discomfort to the brain; therefore, diabetics often suffer from foot injuries and infections. Often a swollen foot is a symptom of an infected wound or foot ulcer. Sometimes tight shoes create blisters and these become infected. A person who has foot ulcers should consult an endocrinologist or podiatrist. Either of these medical professionals can give a more personalized explanation of the connection between diabetes and swollen feet.

Often diabetics experience some swelling in their feet when they begin an insulin treatment, but usually, this swelling disappears in a few weeks. A person can consult a doctor or pharmacist to inquire as to which other drugs may cause swollen feet. Normally, if the swelling continues or is excessive, a person should contact an endocrinologist.

Nephropathy, which is kidney disease or dysfunction, commonly causes swelling in the ankles and feet. Swelling is one of the warning signs that doctors instruct patients to watch for. A person who suffers from diabetes and swollen feet should contact his or her doctor as soon as possible to prevent further kidney damage. Typically, doctors use blood tests to determine if nephropathy is present.

Charcot's arthropathy is a complication of neuropathy that may present itself in people with diabetes, and swollen feet is often a symptom. Generally, it affects only one foot, but it may occur in both feet. Usually, the symptoms are sudden swelling, lack of pain, and slow-healing foot injuries. People with Charcot's arthropathy frequently report that the affected foot is warm to the touch.

Anyone who has excessive swelling in the legs, ankles, or feet should consult a doctor. Although there is a strong connection between diabetes and swollen feet, many other factors may be the root cause. Typically, people with liver dysfunction or kidney disease may experience swelling in their lower extremities. Vascular disease, such as high cholesterol buildup in the blood vessels, often results in excessive fluid developing in the tissue and muscles in the feet and legs. Additionally, certain medications may trigger swelling in the extremities.

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Discussion Comments
By rburow — On Jan 31, 2014

Neuropathy and Nephropathy- because the two words are so similar, it is difficult for most laymen to differentiate between the two. This post was especially helpful in that regard, providing a memorable definition. Charcot's Arthropathy was unfamiliar altogether. Appreciate the definition.

By Jewellian — On Jan 30, 2014

Swollen feet and ankles as a result of diabetes is more common than you might think. It is very important that type 1 diabetics take a careful approach to monitoring their condition and swollen feet and and legs should be assessed by a health professional. Diabetics should be under the care of a podiatrist, in addition to their regular doctor. A podiatrist will examine the skin on the feet for cracks and breaks, which can be dangerous to a diabetic. A symptom of diabetes is slow healing, which could lead to infection.

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