Diabetes and foot health

Did you know that diabetes affects your feet?

Diabetes has increased 300% in the last ten years. Approximately 1.4 million Australian’s have diabetes yet half still remain undiagnosed.

What is Diabetes?

According to Diabetes Australia, diabetes is a chronic condition whereby the body in order to work properly needs to convert glucose (sugar) from food into energy. A hormone called insulin is essential for this conversion.

There are two common types of diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes also known as Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM). This type commonly affects children and young adults. IDDM is controlled using insulin injections as well as diet and exercise.

Type 2 diabetes also known as non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM). This is the more common type and affects people over the age of 40 years. NIDDM is controlled with diet control, exercise and in some cases prescription medications.

How can diabetes affect your feet?

Your feet are supplied with blood containing rich nutrients to keep them healthy. Feet also have approximately 7800 nerves that act as a sensory warning system, enabling you to feel hazardous sharp objects.

If your diabetes is not controlled for an extended period of time it can lead to:

  • Peripheral vascular disease or diminished blood supply leaving the feet feeling cold.
  • Peripheral neuropathy or nerve damage which diminishes the sensation or feeling of the feet or feeling numb.

What can you do to identify changes early?

An annual assessment by our podiatrists will help to detect any changes early.

As part of your assessment, our podiatrists will examine your circulation by paplating the foot pulses and in some instances using an ultrasonic doppler machine or ultrasound blood flow detector to record the blood velocities. Our Podiatrist will also make note of the skin condition, the colour, hair distribution and the temperature of the foot.

Our podiatrists will also examine the foot’s sensation by using sharp and blunt touch tests as well as a ‘monofilament’ which examines fine pressure over the skin as well as the foots reflexes.

Hints to maintain healthy feet for people with diabetes:

  • Ensure that your blood sugar levels are within the range advised for you by your GP or diabetes educator by dietary changes and monitoring.
  • Encourage good blood circulation by walking/exercising regularly.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Choose footwear, which is appropriate for your fitness levels and activity – avoid barefoot walking.
  • Check your shoes regularly for any excess wear on the outside of the heel or for any rough spots within the lining.
  • Blisters, cuts and scratches should be cleansed with saline solution or antiseptic. Cover the wound with a sterile dressing and seek the advice from our podiatrist as soon as possible.
  • Self prescribed over-the-counter products such as corn cures or corn pads should not be used as they can do more damage as they are caustic-based.
  • Picking at or aggravating corns and calluses can also cause infection. See our Podiatrist for the treatment of corns or calluses.
  • It is very important to inspect your feet daily for any sign of redness, swelling or pain. If you detect anything unusual seek the opinion of our podiatrists as soon as possible. Regular visual foot checks are vital for foot health.
  • Diabetes Australia recommends that people with diabetes should visit a Podiatrist at least once every 12 months for a check up and maintenance.