Type 2 diabetes symptoms: High blood sugar levels may show up on your big toe

Diabetes type 2: Dr Zoe Williams discusses high blood sugar risks

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The symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes are a case study of the impact high blood sugar levels can have on the body. Blood sugar is the main type of sugar you get from food. Ordinarily, the pancreas regulates the amount of blood sugar in your body but if you have type 2 diabetes, this mechanism is impaired, which results in unregulated blood sugar levels.

Some of the most destructive effects associated with consistently high blood sugar levels fall under the category of neuropathy.

Neuropathy is damage or dysfunction of one or more nerves.

High blood sugar levels are a primary cause and when high blood sugar levels damage the small blood vessels that nourish your nerves, this can lead to focal neuropathies.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) focal neuropathies are conditions in which you typically have damage to single nerves, most often in your hand, head, torso, or leg.

One telltale sign of focal neuropathy is “peroneal entrapment”, which causes pain on the outside of your lower leg and weakness in your big toe, explains NIDDK.

Depending on which nerve is affected, you may also have pain and other symptoms in your

  • Hand
  • Leg
  • Torso.

How to respond to symptoms

Symptoms of high blood sugar usually signal type 2 diabetes so you should flag them with your GP, says the NHS.

You should also notify your GP if you’re worried you may have a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes, says the health body.

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“You’ll need a blood test, which you may have to go to your local health centre for if it cannot be done at your GP surgery,” it explains.

What’s more, the earlier diabetes is diagnosed and treatment started, the better.

As the NHS points out, early treatment reduces your risk of other health problems.

What happens next

Following a formal diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, you’ll be required to make healthy lifestyle changes in order to stabilise your blood sugar levels.

There are two key components to lowering high blood sugar levels – diet and exercise.

There’s technically nothing you cannot eat if you have type 2 diabetes, but you’ll have to limit certain foods.

Carbohydrate foods are broken down quickly by your body and therefore have a pronounced effect on blood sugar levels.

Some carbs are more risky than others and the glycaemic index (GI) can help you to distinguish between the two.

The GI is a rating system for foods containing carbohydrates. It shows how quickly each food affects your blood sugar (glucose) level when that food is eaten on its own.

Carbohydrate foods that are broken down quickly by your body and cause a rapid increase in blood glucose have a high GI rating.

High GI foods include:

  • Sugar and sugary foods
  • Sugary soft drinks
  • White bread
  • Potatoes
  • White rice.

Low or medium GI foods are broken down more slowly and cause a gradual rise in blood sugar levels over time.

They include:

  • Some fruit and vegetables
  • Pulses
  • Wholegrain foods, such as porridge oats.

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