Living with diabetes and venous insufficiency can be challenging. Managing both conditions requires knowledge and understanding, as well as the right medical and lifestyle interventions.

In this article, we will provide a physical therapist’s guide to diabetes and venous insufficiency, including the risk factors, warning signs, and how physical therapy can help. Read on to learn more about these conditions and what you can do to stay healthy.

Diabetes and venous insufficiency are both conditions that can significantly impact one’s ability to perform activities of daily living, such as walking and climbing stairs. Unfortunately, many people with these conditions also experience poor circulation and other associated symptoms. A physical therapist, who is a certified lymphedema specialist, has the expertise that can be invaluable in helping those affected by diabetes and venous insufficiency manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.


It is important to point out that up to an estimated 30% of patients with chronic venous insufficiency may develop lymphedema. However, the actual risk of developing lymphedema depends on various factors, including the severity and duration of venous insufficiency, the presence of other underlying conditions, and the effectiveness of treatment.

Physical Therapy Treatments for Diabetes and Venous Insufficiency

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The most common physical therapy interventions used to help manage diabetes and venous insufficiency include exercise, manual therapy, compression garments, and patient education. An exercise program can help improve circulation, control blood sugar levels, and reduce muscle pain and swelling. Manual therapy can reduce inflammation and help improve joint mobility. Compression garments, such as elastic stockings, can reduce swelling and improve circulation.

In addition, physical therapy can help to reduce the risk of falls in diabetic patients. Physical therapists can assess a patient’s balance and coordination and prescribe exercises that can help to improve these areas. They can also provide information about the best way to modify the home environment to reduce the risk of falls.

Patient education is also important in helping to improve long-term self-management and prevent complications.

Creating Customized Plans for Each Patient

“My objective with each patient is to create customized treatment plans to meet the needs of each individual,” said Kim Marshall, DPT, CLT owner of Progressive Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation. “It all starts with listening. Together, we develop a plan of care that a patient feels comfortable with and will follow to generate the best possible outcome and quality of life.”

People with diabetes and venous insufficiency who receive physical therapy can expect to experience improved circulation and decreased blood sugar levels. They can also look forward to improved quality of life and a decreased risk of complications. Most importantly, physical therapy is a safe and effective way to manage diabetes and venous insufficiency while promoting overall health and well-being.

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What is Venous Insufficiency?

Venous insufficiency, also known as venous reflux, is a condition in which the veins of the legs are unable to return blood from the lower extremities back to the heart. This can lead to a wide range of symptoms, such as swelling and aching of the legs, changes in skin color in the legs, itchy skin, leg ulcers, and discoloration of the nails. While this condition can be caused by a variety of factors, it is often associated with diabetes.

For people living with diabetes, venous insufficiency can be a serious complication. Diabetes damages small blood vessels in the body, reducing their ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the arms and legs. As a result, weakened vein walls can collapse due to the increased pressure, resulting in the inability of the veins to pump blood back to the heart. This can lead to a host of painful and uncomfortable symptoms that can have a major impact on quality of life.

Risk Factors for Venous Insufficiency

Warning Signs of Diabetes and Venous Insufficiency

For individuals with diabetes, the first sign of venous insufficiency is typically swelling in the lower legs and feet. For those with type 1 diabetes, this swelling may be accompanied by pain. In cases of type 2 diabetes, swelling is typically the only symptom.

In addition to swelling, there are other warning signs that may indicate a venous insufficiency. These include: skin discolorations, such as a reddish-brown tint or darkening of the skin; dry or brittle skin; burning or itching sensation in the legs; and changes in the texture of the skin, such as dimpling, wrinkling, or thickening.

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If any of these warning signs are present, it is important to seek the advice of a medical professional or physical therapist. A physical therapist has the knowledge and skills to diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions, including diabetes and venous insufficiency. During the assessment and evaluation process, a physical therapist will analyze the patient’s medical history, assess the condition of their legs and feet, and discuss their symptoms. In some cases, a physical therapist may recommend a referral to a vascular specialist for further evaluation and treatment.

Long-Term Consequences without Early Intervention

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In conclusion, diabetes and venous insufficiency can have serious, long-term health consequences. Therefore, it is essential to be mindful of potential risk factors and warning signs to ensure early diagnosis and successful treatment. Physical therapy can be an invaluable tool in treating both conditions, helping to improve overall mobility and reduce symptoms. Overall, physical therapists are essential members of the diabetes and venous insufficiency care team, and they should be an integral part of any treatment plan. With their help, patients can manage their conditions more effectively and return to their full range of activities.

If you are suffering the effects of venous insufficiency due to diabetes there are options for help. Consider an evaluation with Kim Marshall in our Garden Grove location at Progressive Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation to learn more about your condition and treatment options. We are always here to help.

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