Diabetes is a growing problem in our community, affecting 1.7 million Australian’s and is more prevalent in over 65’s. Uncontrolled Diabetes causes damage to blood vessels and nerves supplying the feet. The end result is that around 15 per cent will experience foot ulceration and amputation.
With diabetes, no foot injury is trivial. Even small cuts, sores or blisters can have serious consequences, and it can be harder to heal or resist infection.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Regular podiatry care can significantly improve foot health and will prevent at least 50 per cent of all diabetes-related amputations. Research has shown that strict adherence to medical treatment and regular exercise helps to stabilise blood glucose levels and is therefore the best way to avoid these complications.
If you, or someone in your care, has been diagnosed with diabetes, you need to take extra precautions to ensure good health. You need to monitor and tightly control your blood sugar levels, stay physically active, monitor your diet and keep your weight within a healthy range.
People with diabetes require a higher level care and management. Everyone with diabetes should have at the very least an annual podiatry consultation.
Caregivers should look for problems in their patients’ feet such as skin infections, ingrown nails, corns or any skin or nail problem that has the potential to break down and ulcerate. Where possible it’s important that all people with diabetes care for their feet to the best of their abilities. To avoid serious foot problems, inspect your feet every day. If you notice that the skin is compromised, be proactive in your care and notify a healthcare professional of your condition right away.
Diabetes Australia recommends an annual review by a qualified podiatrist to quantify your foot health status, and the level of risk and precaution you should take. As specialists in this field, Podiatrists are able to use diagnostic tests to assess your sensation, circulation and biomechanical risk factors and place that within the bigger picture of your overall health. Furthermore, a Podiatrist will provide necessary treatment at the time of the consultation involving skin and nail care for corns, calluses or ingrown toenails or ulcer debridement in more advanced cases. Information about your foot health can then be forwarded onto your General Practitioner or specialist Endocrinologist and where further treatment can be recommended if necessary.
Listed below are some simple tips to help you maintain good foot health:
- Wash feet and dry feet thoroughly daily ensure special attention is taken between the toes
- Visually examine your feet daily to ensure there is no marks, spots, cuts, swelling or redness that is not normal. (Tip – if you have difficulty getting your leg up to see the sole of your foot, a well placed mirror may be of help)
- Choose correctly fitted shoes with adequate depth and width for the toes
- Cotton socks with no elastic in the tops will absorb sweat and reduce pressure at the top of the sock line (available through Diabetes Australia Queensland – www.daq.org.au)
- Attend for an annual Podiatry Diabetes Foot assessment
Regular podiatric care plays an integral role in the prevention of diabetic foot complications. Routine podiatric care has been shown to decrease the likelihood of limb amputation due to the complications of diabetes.
In addition to regular Podiatry assessment and treatment, you can do these simple things at home to take care of your feet.
- NEVER walk barefoot.
- Know your feet well and check them daily. Use a mirror or ask someone to check them for you.
- Wash and dry your feet daily. Don’t forget the soles of your feet and in between your toes.
- Check for redness, heat, swelling, cuts, ingrown toenails, sores, splinters and blisters.
- Cut your toenails straight across carefully with good quality nail nippers and file afterwards.
- Moisturise your feet daily but avoid moisturising in between your toes.
- Have any corns and calluses treated by a podiatrist. NEVER use over-the-counter corn pads or razor blades.
- Use seamless cotton socks or stockings and don’t wear them too tight.
- Protect your feet in appropriately fitted, supportive shoes. Check the inside of the shoes for foreign objects before you put them on.
- Keep your feet away from direct heat including heaters, hot water bottles, scalding hot showers/baths and electric blankets.
- Enjoy exercise and try to be generally active while taking care to prevent injury.
People with diabetes cannot afford to be complacent. Remain proactive when caring for your feet and with daily precautions and treatment after injury, you can continue to enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle.