Did you know that there are 1.8 million people living with Diabetes in Australia? If your a Diabetic then you know that diabetes and your feet are one of your many concerns you have to worry about.
That’s a new diagnosis every 5 minutes! With a whopping 4,400 ending up with an amputation every year! Yet 85% of diabetic related amputations are preventable if wounds are detected early and managed appropriately (Diabetes Australia).
As a Podiatrist, our goal is to keep you walking around and doing all the things you love, with both feet and 10 toes intact. In order for you to understand how we do that, it’s essential that you understand how diabetes can affect your feet over time.
How Diabetes can impact your feet
The majority of diabetic related foot issues are caused by elevated blood sugar levels. The good news is, they are therefore preventable! The 2 key ways that diabetes can impact your lower limb foot health is by:
Peripheral Neuropathy: The development of nerve damage and an associated loss of feeling, particularly in the hands and feet. Symptoms can include pain, burning, pins-and-needles, numbness and muscle weakness. As a result, there is a loss of protective sensation, resulting in unrecognised injuries.
For example: Our Podiatrist’s often see people who present for routine care only to discover they have some glass stuck in their foot. When an injury isn’t detected, it is not appropriately managed and can therefore cause serious complications such as infections, ulcerations or amputations.
Peripheral vascular disease: Is defined as narrowing of the blood vessels that supply blood to the legs and feet. Our bodies rely on blood flow to maintain nutrient and oxygen delivery to the tissues and to carry immune cells that fight infection.
A restriction in blood flow can cause the following signs/symptoms:
- Skin: cold to touch, blue/purple in colour and poor integrity
- Nails: slow growing and thickened
- Slow healing
- Intermittent pain (claudication) when exercising or when legs are elevated. The pain typically feels like cramping, muscle fatigue or heaviness in the legs.
- Skin breakdown or gangrene
If 1 or more of the above issues are present this can lead to ulcerations (wounds that aren’t healing), gangrene and amputations. This risk can mean it isn’t recommended that you perform home foot care and ensure that they are being regularly checked by your local Podiatrist or health professional to monitor changes.
Diabetes and Foot Care – A Patient’s Checklist
As a diabetic you are considered to be high risk when it comes to foot care. This is because diabetes can cause damage to the nerves in your feet, blood circulation and infection. Having diabetes can increase your risk of foot ulcers and amputations as well.
But wait- no need to worry just yet! This just means that as a diabetic you want to be taking preventative measures. You can do so by simply checking your feet daily.
If you see any of the following- it is important to seek medical treatment with your local Podiatrist or healthcare professional on the day.
- Unusual swelling
- Ingrown nails
- Bruising or cuts
Below you will find several more symptoms to keep an eye out for when it comes to diabetic foot care. If you find yourself experiencing any of these, you will still need to get in touch with your local Podiatrist or healthcare professional, however you have an extended period of time – 7 days to get medical treatment.
- Broken skin between toes
- Foot shape changes
- Cracked skin
- Nail colour changes
How does a Podiatrist help with diabetes?
1. Perform a Diabetic lower limb neuromuscular assessment
Whether you are at low, moderate or high risk of developing lower limb complications, you’ll want to be sure you have your diabetic assessment on your To-Do list.
During this assessment we perform the following tests:
- A doppler analysis to assess whether enough blood is getting to your feet
- Assess for signs or symptoms of peripheral vascular disease
- Test 10g pressure detection
- Test vibration perception
2. Perform general nail and skin care:
Keeping nails cut correctly to prevent ingrown toenails and removing callous/corns before they cause skin breakdown is essential. It is typically advised that diabetics with any loss of sensation or blood flow restriction should not be using sharp instruments like nail clippers on their feet. During general podiatry appointments we are also checking for any areas of abnormalities or concern that may pose a risk to your foot health and treat them appropriately.
3.Address any injuries or pain before they become chronic.
4.Perform footwear assessments to ensure your shoes are helping and not hindering your foot health.
5.Provide education: depending on your level of foot health and self care ability we can provide education on how to appropriately protect and treat your feet based off your specific needs.
6.Liaise with your general practitioner to keep them in the loop and organise further investigation where warranted.
How often should you get your Diabetic Foot Exam?
As a diabetic, you should be attending your Diabetes Neurovascular Assessment at least once a year. At Coast Sport our Podiatrists are always here to help! We can happily perform your annual foot exam, as well as look after the rest of your foot care needs.
If you’re local to the Central Coast, not only can our friendly team of Podiatrists assist you in the proper diabetic foot care tailored to your needs, but so can our Accredited Exercise Physiologists. We have a team of allied health professionals all under the one roof! Please contact us today for more information or to book an appointment.
You can find more information on The Benefits of Diabetes and Exercise brought to you by our team and be sure not to miss the opportunity for our Diabetes and Exercise Class, held by Accredited Exercise Physiologist Maddie Sheppard.