World Diabetes Day is being commemorated on November 14, with the theme “Halt the diabetes epidemic“. This article is therefore being done as a precursor to the day. Foot care amongst diabetics is incredibly important, since foot related complications are common for those with the disease. Foot ulcers for example, affect as many as 1 out of 10 persons with diabetes, and can all to easily develop from blisters and small wounds, to posing a threat of amputation. Even small ulcers on the foot can represent a serious risk; they may heal extremely slowly, and need rigorous treatment to cure. They can develop into serious lower body infections, with the possibility of amputation at an advanced stage.
Why is foot care important?
Caring for your feet as a diabetic should not be difficult, and should be a prime consideration. The presence of high blood glucose levels over a long period of time may result in a condition called diabetic neuropathy (damage to the nerves), or loss of circulation in the extremities of the body. If the nerves in your feet or legs are damaged, your feet can lose sensation and become numb. Charcot Foot is another complication that can develop.
It is relatively common for people with diabetes to not feel foot problems until they have developed, so the key is to ensure you have regular foot examinations.
When to see a doctor or your podiatrist
You should see your doctor or podiatrist urgently if:
- – You notice breaks in the skin of your foot, or a discharge.
- – The skin over part, or all of the foot, changes colour and becomes more red, blue, pale or dark.
- – You notice extra swelling in your feet, where there was a blister or injury.
What signs should I look for?
Because damage to the nerves and blood supply to your feet happens gradually, it’s important to know what to look for, and how to spot the signs of any change. The regular monitoring of your feet helps to reveal early damage signs. While there are a number of different things to look out for, these are the main ones.
– Changes to nerves – Changes to blood supply
– Tingling or pins and needles – Cramp in your calves
– Numbness – Shiny, smooth skin
– Pain – Losing hair on your feet and legs
– Sweating less – Thickened toenails
– Feet may look red and feel hot to the touch – Cold, pale feet.
– Changes in the shape of your feet – Change in the skin colour of the feet
– Hard skin – Wounds or sores
– Losing sense of the position of your feet and legs – Pain in your feet.
What other help can I get to look after my feet?
Apart from your regular checks, an annual review should be done with a healthcare professional who has been specially trained to look after people with diabetes.
By maintaining your appointments, you will not only be able to find out about any early problems, but as well, get advice on foot care, shoes and any issues you may be having. Even if you think a problem may be small, or not worth worrying about, always tell your health professional about any changes you notice. If you need help in between your annual reviews, make an appointment with the person who usually looks after your diabetes care.
In addition to the symptoms which you might spot yourself, your health professional will also be testing for changes to your feet. When you go to your annual diabetes review, he or she will look for changes to your nerves and the blood supply, as well as checking the shape and condition of your feet.
Personal foot care
– Protect your feet by not walking barefoot, wearing correctly fitting footwear, and keeping your feet clean, and in good condition. If you have trouble doing the checks yourself, you may need to ask someone to help you.
– Finally, if you have diabetes, you should definitely try to quit smoking, as it impairs the blood circulation. Smoking can seriously worsen your foot and leg problems.
Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!