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What is the Connection Between Diabetes and Swelling?

By Sarah Sullins
Updated May 17, 2024
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The connection between diabetes and swelling is often the result of problems that occur in the kidneys. People who have diabetes often have trouble with their kidneys, which can lead to water retention and swelling of the hands, legs, ankles, and feet. Inappropriate blood circulation is also a common reason that people with diabetes experience swelling in their legs. Certain positions when sitting and many other factors can contribute to poor blood circulation and swelling in the legs.

Diabetics are much more likely to develop kidney disorders and urinary tract infections. A doctor may be able to prescribe medicine to help control the symptoms of these problems before they can get worse. If left untreated, a urinary tract infection may lead to damage to the kidneys. With kidney disease, excess protein may be in a person’s urine, and a diabetic may lose one or both of his kidneys. If both kidneys are lost, he will have to have dialysis to filter waste from his body.

The development of issues with a person’s kidney can affect how well the kidney functions. Water may collect in certain areas of the body. This is known as edema and will often lead to swelling in the areas that water has collected.

Poor blood circulation also is a common connection between diabetes and swelling. Blood may not be able to reach a person’s lower legs and feet as easily and may collect in these areas instead of circulating. Insulin in the bloodstream can damage the nerves that extend down to the feet, which will then make a person’s blood vessels become thicker. The poor blood circulation and lack of oxygen might not only lead to swelling, but also to a number of other problems.

Swelling that is caused by circulation problems can also contribute to sores and blisters that develop on the legs and feet. Proper care can help relieve some of these problems as well as daily inspections of these areas to check for sores, cuts, and bruising. Severe issues that are not properly treated can cause serious problems and complications that may lead to surgery or the possibility of amputation.

Reducing the connection between diabetes and swelling that is caused circulation problems may be done by wearing shoes that fit well but are loose enough that they do not press against a person’s foot. Reducing the amount of time a person is standing on his or her feet and wearing compression hose may be helpful as well. Compression hose can help reduce the amount of blood that collects in areas of the legs and improve circulation. Massaging the legs can also help reduce the connection between diabetes and swelling because it can help circulate blood in the legs and feet.

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