Diabetes Foot Health
Having diabetes puts people at a greater risk of developing foot complications such as nerve damage and circulation problems which can lead to foot ulcers and/or amputations.
Nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy) affects the nerves that supply the feet and legs. People that have poor blood glucose control are at a higher risk of developing nerve damage. The most common nerve damage affects the sensory nerves or ‘feeling’ nerves. When these nerves become damaged you are more likely to injure your foot without realising it because you can’t feel pain. An injury or an area of your foot that is exposed to high pressure can lead to ulceration (deep full thickness skin loss type wound), bone infection and possible subsequent amputation. Early warning signs of nerve damage are pins and needles, burning pain and numbness.
People who have diabetes are more at risk of developing arterial disease – hardening of the arteries or blockages in the big leg arteries that prevents blood getting to the feet. Signs of arterial disease can include cramps in the legs when you are active/ going for a walk, pale legs and feet, hair loss on the feet or legs, pain in the feet at rest, cuts that are slow to heal.
It is important to note that signs of arterial disease may not be noted until the disease has progressed to advanced stages. Only 10% people with artery disease get cramping (claudication) and rest pain only presents in late stages of artery disease.
It is important to have a foot health check at least once per year by your podiatrist as these conditions can lurk undetected for a long time.
Caring for your feet:
- Have a check-up with your podiatrist at least once per year. People with diabetes are eligible to have their visit partially covered by medicare under a chronic disease care plan.
- Cut nails straight across and gently file them. If you can’t see them or reach them ask for help from someone.
- Never cut your own callouses or corns. Do not use over the counter corn removal preparations. You are more at risk of developing wounds and infections if you do so.
- Dry your feet and in between your toes well after showering.
- Wear well fitting footwear.
- Do not wear tight hosiery or socks.
- Do not walk barefoot even in the house. Make sure you have well fitted footwear on to protect against injury.
- Keep your feet away from heaters, hot water bottles or any sources of direct heat.
- Know your feet well – it is important to check your feet daily! Check for any cuts, blisters, red spots, pus discharge, splinters etc. If you notice any cuts or wounds – clean the area, apply antiseptic and a dry dressing. If it hasn’t improved in 24 hours seek medical attention. Always seek urgent medical attention for the most mild of looking infections as diabetes can mask the signs of infection.