Diabetes and the feet
Why should I get my feet checked by a podiatrist?
Diabetes complications can occur in those with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Some of these complications include vision loss, kidney damage, stroke and foot wounds which can lead to amputations.
According to Diabetes Australia “Around 85% of diabetes related amputations are preventable if wounds are detected early and managed appropriately.”
Podiatrists have an important role in the prevention/management of diabetes foot complications through education, routine foot care and diabetes neurovascular foot assessments.
Why do the feet get affected?
The feet are at risk because diabetes can damage the nerves of the feet and reduce circulation.
This can mean that cuts or injuries underneath the foot may not be felt or treated. Furthermore, if the circulation is reduced the ability for the body to heal a cut/wound will be slowed. This can lead to infections and chronic foot ulcers.
The risk for a foot wound/ulcer is increased if:
- You have had diabetes a long time
- You have uncontrolled/elevated blood glucose levels
- You smoke
- You have high cholesterol or high blood pressure
What are some of the symptoms of foot issues?
As mentioned, nerve damage and/or arterial disease can lead to foot ulcers.
It's predicted that over half of all people with diabetes have some form of nerve damage which is called ‘peripheral neuropathy’. This damage may have even occurred in the prediabetic stage (before diagnosis). The most common symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy are numbness, tingling, weakness, burning or a cold sensation in the feet/legs.
Symptoms of arterial disease or circulation problems can include cramping in the legs when walking/exercising, discoloration of the skin or feet that are cold to touch.
What does a diabetes foot assessment by a podiatrist involve?
Podiatrists determine what an individual's risk for developing foot complications is and help prevent foot ulcerations from occurring.
A circulation assessment involves using equipment to analyse the health of the arteries in the feet, a nerve function assessment involves checking the different nerve fibres involved in sensation.
Podiatrists will also determine if there are any pressure regions of concern. This can involve ensuring that footwear is fitting appropriately. For example, commonly seen pressure regions include a prominent bunion or clawing toes rubbing on shoes that are too tight.
Many diabetic foot ulcers occur due to a combination of a pressure region with loss of sensation and/or arterial disease.
How often should I see the podiatrist?
For those with diabetes it's recommended that you have a diabetes foot assessment every 12 months. This is particularly important if you have factors which increase your risk i.e elevated blood glucose, high cholesterol.
If you are deemed to have a higher risk of developing foot complications/ulcerations it will be suggested that you have more frequent podiatry visits. The podiatrist may also recommend routine nail and skin care if you cannot reach/or if it is not safe for you to self-treat due to having issues like peripheral neuropathy or poor eyesight.
Your podiatrist will also send a report to your doctor summarising the assessment results and management plan.
What can I do to look after my feet?
- Check your feet daily and if you notice anything unusual, act on those changes quickly. If you notice any of the following, seek assistance from your podiatrist:
- Hard skin/corns
- Ingrown toenail
- Cracked skin
- Foot shape changes
- Placing moisturizer on your feet every day will help prevent your skin from splitting/cracking.
- Wear appropriate footwear - if you are unsure visit your podiatrist.
- Wash your feet daily and dry them afterwards, ensuring that in-between the toes gets dried as this is a common region for infections and skin breaks to occur.
To book a diabetes foot assessment please call the Back In Motion Rowville clinic on 9755 5910 or click here for online bookings
Click on the images below to expand.