Sprained ankles are a common injury especially if you are an athlete.
Unfortunately, if you have diabetes it can affect your feet and legs in many ways including making them more susceptible to sprains and fractures.
Some complications of diabetes can mask symptoms of leg and foot issues and also take you longer to heal which can lead to serious problems.
In this article, we will explore the link between diabetes and ankle injuries. We will also discuss the best treatments for diabetic foot and leg problems, and ways to prevent these problems from occurring.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way your body regulates your blood sugar called glucose. The two most common forms of diabetes are type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes and although they both lead to elevated blood sugar levels, the cause of each is different.
Type 1 diabetes is caused by the autoimmune destruction of the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas, while type 2 diabetes is a result of your body becoming resistant to insulin.
Your cells need the hormone insulin to take in glucose and then convert it into energy for your body. If you have diabetes, it means that your blood glucose levels are constantly elevated which can lead to serious health complications over time if left untreated including heart disease, diabetic foot ulcers, and even amputation.
How does diabetes affect the feet and legs?
Diabetes can cause several problems in the feet and legs including nerve damage, poor circulation, and an increased risk of infection.
Diabetic neuropathy, also called diabetic peripheral neuropathy, is a type of nerve damage that can occur if you have diabetes and it is believed to be caused by high blood sugar levels over long periods.
It most commonly affects your feet and legs but it can also affect other parts of your body including your hands and arms.
Diabetic neuropathy can cause a lack of feeling in your feet which means you may not feel pain or cuts and scrapes on them and you can easily develop diabetic foot ulcers or infections without realizing it.
Poor circulation, on the other hand, is a result of damage to your blood vessels caused by high blood sugar levels.
The lack of blood flow is usually due to peripheral artery disease, also called peripheral vascular disease, and can make it more difficult for wounds to heal which also increases your risk of developing foot ulcers or infection.
What are the most common diabetic foot and leg problems?
Due to a lack of sensation or poor blood flow to your extremities, diabetes can be a risk factor and cause some serious medical issues including the following:
Charcot foot, also called Charcot arthropathy, occurs when the bones in your feet and ankles begin to break down due to neuropathy which can cause severe deformities in the foot and ankle and make it difficult or impossible to walk and may require surgery.
Diabetic foot ulcers
A diabetic foot ulcer is an open sore that can occur on the feet as a result of neuropathy or poor circulation. If left untreated, a diabetic ulcer can lead to an infection, gangrene (dead tissue), and possibly amputation.
The reason ingrown toenails are a problem if you have diabetes is that they can easily become infected which can lead to serious complications.
Plantar warts are a type of virus that can cause pain and discomfort on the bottom of your feet.
Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that can cause itching, redness, and blistering on the feet. You are at an increased risk of getting the condition with diabetes because of the increased infection risk.
Fungal nail infections
If you get a fungal nail infection, it means that there is a fungus growing in your toenails which can cause them to become discolored, thick, and brittle.
Corns and calluses
Corns and calluses are areas of thickened skin that can form on the feet as a result of friction or pressure. Due to neuropathy your feet can become misshapen and put pressure on different areas of the foot.
Diabetic blisters, also called bullous diabeticorum, are a type of blister that can occur on the feet and legs if you have diabetes.
Dry skin is a common problem with diabetes due to high blood glucose levels prompting your body to pull fluid from your cells.
Hammertoe is a deformity that can occur in the toes where the toe bends down at the middle joint and can become painful.
Bunions are a deformity of the big toe joint where the big toe points toward the second toe unnaturally.
Am I more likely to sprain or fracture an ankle with diabetes?
There are a couple of reasons why your diabetes makes it more likely for you to suffer from an ankle sprain or fracture and they are neuropathy and Charcot foot.
Charcot foot is a condition that can cause bone fractures in your feet and ankles and this makes it more difficult to walk which increases your risk of falling and injuring yourself including spraining your ankle joint.
What are the best treatments for diabetic foot and leg problems?
The best treatment for any diabetic foot or leg problem is to see a podiatrist or other medical professional as soon as possible.
If you have any cuts, sores, or blisters on your feet, it is important to clean them and put a bandage on them to prevent infection.
If you have any foot deformities, you need to wear the correct shoes or orthotics to prevent further injury.
Are there any ways to prevent these diabetic problems?
The best way to prevent any diabetic foot or leg problem is to have regular foot exams with a podiatrist or other medical professional.
It is also important to practice good diabetic foot care by washing your feet with mild soap and water every day and drying them thoroughly.
You need to also check your feet daily for any cuts, sores, blisters, or other problems and see your doctor as soon as possible if you notice anything.
Wearing the correct shoes and socks, preferably diabetic shoes and socks that fit properly, is also important to prevent foot problems. If you have diabetes, it is important to control your blood sugar levels to help prevent diabetic complications and to monitor your glucose levels to ensure they are in the target range.
The best ways to prevent or stop the progression of diabetic neuropathy and peripheral artery disease is through proper diabetes management which includes eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and taking medications as prescribed by your doctor.
If you have diabetes you are more likely to sprain or fracture an ankle due to neuropathy or Charcot foot. The best way to prevent any diabetic foot or leg problem is to have regular foot exams with a podiatrist or other medical professional and practice good diabetic foot care to keep your feet healthy.
If you have any more questions regarding diabetes and your feet or ankles, please talk to your doctor, podiatrist, or health care provider.
References and sources:
American Diabetes Association
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Diabetic.org is devoted to producing expert and accurate articles and information for our readers by hiring experts, journalists, medical professionals, and our growing Diabetic.org community. We encourage you to read more about our content, editing, and fact checking methods here. This was fact checked by Jacqueline Hensler and medically reviewed by Dr. Angel Rivera.
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