Home HealthTopics Health Centers Reference Library Research
Join us on Facebook Join us on Facebook Share on Facebook

Diabetes

Numbness in feet

09/29/2003

Question:

During the past 2 to 3 weeks, my first & second toes on my left foot have had a degree of numbness. Also, I have had a "burning" sensation in the heel of the same foot. I have numbness or tingling in both feet from time to time. I had gestational diabetes with both pregnancies & my father is diabetic. I have been told that this could possibly be caused by unstable sugar levels. Is this true?

Answer:

The sensations you are having in your feet, coupled with the history of previous gestational diabetes and a family history of diabetes, certainly could be a result of your having diabetes yourself. The feeling in the feet can be due to a number of causes with diabetes being not the only one but one of the more common ones. Women who have had gestational diabetes (i.e. diabetes that comes on during pregnancy and then disappears around the time of delivery) have a markedly greater risk of later developing permanent type 2 diabetes than the general population. The feelings in the feet could be a sign of a complication of diabetes, nerve damage, technically referred to as diabetic peripheral neuropathy (it is called peripheral because the damage to the nerve is thought to occur outside of or peripheral to the spinal cord). Usually, we think of diabetic complications coming on after many years of diabetes. However, the process can be silent so that people can have such a complication before they receive a diagnosis of diabetes. Best to get it checked out with very careful tests of short-term (fasting plasma glucose and possibly a glucose tolerance test) and long-term blood sugar control (hemoglobin A1c or possibly fructosamine). 

For more information:

Go to the Diabetes health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Robert M Cohen, MD Robert M Cohen, MD
Professor of Clinical Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati