Diabetes is the epidemic of the 21st century and the biggest challenge confronting Australia’s health system. Around 1.8 million Australians have diabetes. This includes all types of diagnosed diabetes (1.3 million known and registered) as well as silent, undiagnosed type 2 diabetes (up to 500,000 estimated) (Diabetes Australia, 2020).
We see many patients in our clinic everyday who are living with diabetes. This often-chronic medical condition has an enormous capacity to cause significant problems to your feet and legs and can diminish the quality of your life. Therefore, you should seek to understand diabetes and how it affects the health of your feet and learn ways to look after them so that you can reduce diabetes related foot complications.
How Does Having Diabetes Affect Your Feet?
Diabetes has the capacity to cause changes to the circulation, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, tendons and skin of the feet.
Two of the most important changes are damage to circulation and nerves resulting in reduced blood flow and reduced feeling in the feet which if combined is not ideal.
- Poor Blood Flow and Diabetes: reduced blood flow makes the skin unhealthy, causing delayed healing for cuts, scratches, and blisters. It also increases the risk of an infection and wounds not healing quickly. Thus, the risk of diabetic foot ulcers also develops.
- Loss of Feeling due to Diabetes: (neuropathy) loss of feeling in the feet due to nerve damage means any injury to the feet or pain may not be felt. Being able to feel pain is good because it’s our body’s way of telling us if there’s anything wrong. For example, if you tread on something sharp, the nerves in your feet will send pain signals to your brain. Many people with nerve damage will not be able to feel this pain and may not be aware of any damage until a significant infection has occurred and a major problem has developed. When you experience nerve damage, you may also feel abnormal sensations in your feet such as burning, night pain, pins and needles, and/or numbness. These sensations may also make feeling ‘true’ pain signals even harder.
How to Take Care of Your Feet When You Have Diabetes
Every person with diabetes should follow a simple 8 step plan to prevent foot complications from occurring:
- Control your blood sugar levels
- Check your feet daily for any changes (i.e. nails, skin, colour and temperature) and treat cuts and scratches immediately
- Keep your feet clean and well maintained
- Trim your nails correctly
- Have corns and calluses removed by a Podiatrist
- Apply foot cream regularly
- Wear correct fitting, activity appropriate shoes
- Have your feet assessed and checked by a Podiatrist every 6-12 months
The Role of A Podiatrist In Diabetes Treatment
We understand how diabetes can affect the health of your feet and diminish the quality of your life and so we love to help you out. During our comprehensive Diabetes Foot Assessments we will assess the current status of your foot health and help develop both short and long-term management strategies so you can have great outcomes and live an enjoyable life.
We will be more than happy to answer any questions you might have to help keep your feet safe from the effects of diabetes.