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Diabetes Restless Feet or Legs

By Karen Graham, RD, CDE


Do you wake up at night or have trouble falling asleep? Is this because of diabetes-related restless feet or legs, a numb or tingly feeling in your toes or a sharp, burning, throbbing pain in your feet, legs, hands or arms?


If so, this may be diabetes neuropathy, which means damage to your nerves caused by high blood sugar over many years. Once a nerve is damaged it can’t be healed, but you can reduce the symptoms and you can stop it from getting worse.


The first thing that needs to be solved is the high blood sugar. Go back to your doctor or diabetes team, and reread the tips and recommendations in our Diabetes Health & Wellness Series. Where can you make a change that will help your blood sugar? Start with one change today.


Exercises that improve blood circulation to your affected area can help. You can try a mini-exercise bike or tai chi or yoga. It may help if you do five or ten minutes of ankle rotations before bedtime. When more blood flows, your damaged nerves will thank you for the extra oxygen and nutrients that gets sent their way.


Try a bed cradle if you find the touch of the bed sheets on your legs is bothersome. To understand what a bed cradle is, watch this video.

It is an advertisement, but it will give you an idea of how a bed cradle works.


If you try a bed cradle and it doesn’t help, talk to your doctor about other treatments such as medicated creams, patches and pills, physiotherapy and relaxation. These are covered in Diabetes Essentials in the two-pager section on “Manage Diabetes Nerve Pain”. If you have restless legs you are likely also more at risk for a diabetes foot infection. Take steps to look after your feet.


The Complete Diabetes Guide has more information on diabetes nerve damage and foot care. Also, Dr. Shomali and I discuss how to “Manage Diabetes Nerve Pain” on page 122-123 of Diabetes Essentials.



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