Heel Spurs And Diabetes: Connections, Causes, And Treatments

If you live with type I or type II diabetes, you probably already know that taking care of your feet is hugely important to your long-term health and well-being. Diabetes can make your extremities more vulnerable to injuries, and the feet and lower legs are particularly vulnerable. Many diabetic people suffer from heel spurs, a bone deformity that can become both painful and debilitating. 

What Are Heel Spurs?

The bone in the heel of your foot is called the calcaneus. This tough, dense bone is placed under a lot of stress and pressure on a day-to-day basis and has to bear your weight while you stand, walk, and run. This repeated stress causes layers of calcium to form on the underside of the heel.

In some cases, these calcium deposits start to build up on top of each other, creating a bony outcropping that sticks out from the heel bone. This bony growth is known as a heel spur (or calcaneal spur). These spurs often grow into pointed shapes and can be fairly long. 

As you can imagine, a bony spike sticking out of your heel bone can do significant damage to the skin and soft tissues surrounding the heel bone. Heel spurs can cause sharp, stabbing pain in the affected heel(s), and you may be unable to place weight on your heel(s) without pain. In many cases, this pain is worse when you first wake up in the morning or stand up after a long period of sitting.

How Can Heel Pain Doctors Treat Bone Spurs In Diabetic People?

If you are diabetic and suffering from the symptoms of heel spurs, a specialist heel pain doctor can examine your feet to diagnose the cause of your pain. Other foot conditions, such as plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis, can also cause heel pain, so it is important to get a conclusive diagnosis. In many cases, diabetic people with significant heel pain are suffering from several of these conditions.

If calcaneal spurs are causing your heel pain, prescription painkilling medications and injections can provide pain relief. Your doctor will probably provide you with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), as these will also help to reduce inflammation and swelling in the affected heel(s).

In some cases, corticosteroid injections are used to provide more long-lasting pain relief. However, these drugs can cause peripheral nerve damage, and may not be suitable for diabetic people already suffering from peripheral neuropathy. For this reason, you should make sure your heel pain doctor is fully aware of your diabetes, as well as the treatments and medications you take to manage it.

Your doctor will also recommend lifestyle changes to help reduce pressure on your damaged heel(s). They can help you lose weight if excessive weight or obesity is worsening your spurs. They can also recommend leg strengthening and flexibility routines, as stronger, more flexible leg joints and muscles will reduce pressure on your heel bones.

If your heel spurs are particularly large and causing intractable pain, you may be referred for surgery. Heel spur removal surgery is minimally invasive, and many surgeons use endoscopic techniques. These techniques allow the surgeon to remove the spur(s) through tiny incisions that heal quickly.  

For more info about heel pain, contact a local doctor.