Diabetes and Foot Care
Podiatrists are highly skilled health professionals, trained to deal with the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of medical and surgical conditions of the feet and lower limbs, including problems associated with diabetes and arthritis.
How Diabetes can affect your feet?
Your feet are supplied with blood to keep them healthy. They have lots of nerves that act as a warning system. For example, if you have a stone in your shoe, the nerves will send a message to your brain.
If diabetes is poorly controlled for a long time, these warnings may be impaired and this may reduce normal healing ability. This can increase the risk of developing Peripheral Vascular Disease or “poor circulation” to the feet. As a result, blood vessels age and harden faster, preventing blood flowing to the feet or returning to the heart.
Development of peripheral neuropathy or “nerve damage” make it impossible to:
- Feel pain from an injury or pressure
- Detect hot and cold temperatures
- Maintain balance and foot position
- Symptoms include numbness, tingling, burning and injury.
Loss of feeling in your feet, can lead to an injury you can’t feel and possible infection.
If you have poor circulation, any injury or infection to your feet, ie. cuts, burns or scratches, will take longer to heal. This is due to less blood flowing into your feet and can lead to ulceration, gangrene and eventually amputation if not cared for appropriately.
- Lower limb ulcers are responsible for more hospital admissions of diabetic patients than any other cause.
- There is $58 million spent on diabetic foot complications each year in Australian hospitals.
- Most amputations result from a simple injury, 15% of people with diabetes have ulcer formation and up to 85% could be preventable. Undetected foot problems may aggravate the effect of any diabetic neuropathy as you age.
- Evidence shows that education and strict control of glucose levels in early diabetes, reduces the incidence and severity of complications.
If you have poor circulation, you will need to take extra care to protect your feet from injury.
How can you detect changes early?
Most foot problems in people who have diabetes occur when injuries and infection go unnoticed and untreated or when healing is delayed due to poor circulation. A six-monthly check by your podiatrist will help detect any changes early, before they become a problem.
Your podiatrist will examine your circulation by measuring foot pulses. They will also examine sensation by testing reflexes, vibration and pressure sensitivity and other tests as necessary. Your podiatrist will also look after general foot conditions which may lead to future problems. They will work with you and show you how to monitor your own feet in between consultations.
What are preventive measures?
- Protect your feet from injury
- Inspect your feet every day (your podiatrist can show you how)
- See your podiatrist immediately if something is not healing or you find a red swollen area.
As a general guide:
- Maintain acceptable blood sugar level control
- Don’t smoke
- Excercise regularly
- Avoid barefoot walking
- Keep your feet clean
- Wear well-fitting shoes
- Cut and file nails carefully
- Have corns, calluses and other foot problems treated by a podiatrist
- Seek your podiatrists advice if you have any concerns about your feet and lower limbs.
- Altered sensation may be indicated by numbness in the feet, cuts, blisters, ingrown toenails and corns may go unnoticed
- Reduced blood sugar (poor circulation) can slow down the healing process
- PROTECT your feet from injury
- INSPECT your feet every day
- Have a REGULAR foot assessment