What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition in which the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high because the body is unable to use it properly. This is because insulin is lacking or the body's way of converting glucose into energy is not working properly.
There are 2 common forms of Diabetes:
Type 1: which usually starts in children and young adults. People with this type of diabetes require daily insulin injections
Type 2: is the most common and usually affects people over the age of 40 years.
How can diabetes effect your feet?
Your feet are supplied with blood to keep them healthy. They also have lots of nerves as a warning system. For example, if you have a stone in your shoe, nerves will send a message to your brain.
However, if your diabetes is poorly controlled for a long period of time, this may lead to:
nerve damage which reduces feeling in the feet which is called peripheral neuropathy, and or
'poor circulation' which is called peripheral vascular disease
Nerve damage may mean that you no longer notice the stone in your shoe, due to loss of feeling in your feet. This could then lead to an injury you can't feel, or a wound, and possibly infection.
If you have poor circulation, any injuries, wounds or infections to your feet (ie cuts, burns or scratches) will take longer to heal. This is due to less blood flowing into your feet. Blood provides energy to muscles and aids in healing any tissue damage.
If you have poor circulation, you will need to take extra care to protect your feet from injury and wounds.
Most foot problems in people who have diabetes occur when injuries and wounds - and often infections - go unnoticed and untreated, or when healing is delayed due to poor circulations.
How can I detect any changes early?
A twelve monthly check by your podiatrist will help to detect any changes early - before they become a problem.
Your podiatrist will examine your circulation by feeling foot pulses. They will also examine sensation by testing pressure sensitivity, vibration and/or reflexes and other tests may be considered necessary.
Your podiatrist will also look for general foot conditions which may lead to future problems. They will work with you to show you how to monitor your own feet, in between consultations.
If any changes have occurred or you have a infection or wound, you will need more frequent care in the form of a tailored care plan.
To prevent problems
Protect you feet from injury
inspect your feet everyday which your podiatrist will show you how
and see your podiatrist immediately if something is not healing or if you find a red swollen area
The best type of footwear fits well and protects your feet. Wherever possible, wear shoes to avoid injury.
Some other pointers:
where possible, wear lace-up shoes which are deep and broad enough especially at the toes
check inside your shoes for rough edges or exposed tacks - shake them out to make sure there is nothing inside
cotton hosiery, socks and tights, worn with leather upper shoes are good choices.
As a general guide
maintain acceptable blood sugar level control
avoid barefoot walking
keep your feet clean
wear well fitting shoes
cut and file nails carefully and if you find this hard to do see you podiatrist for regular treatment
have corns, calluses and other foot problems treatment by a podiatrist
seek your podiatrist's advice if you have any foot concerns