#truthtalk time. If you’re not careful with your feet and you have diabetes, you’re putting yourself at significant risk - with significant consequences for your feet. Problems arising from the way diabetes impacts the feet is something we see on a daily basis, and the effects of which only worsen over time when they’re left untreated and out of mind. The good news is that 85% of diabetic foot-related problems can also be prevented - and reading this article to understand the risks and start taking the right steps to care for your feet is a fantastic first step.
To put it into perspective, here in Australia, diabetic foot disease has mortality rates worse than many cancers, resulting in a limb being lost to amputation every 2 hours, and costing our healthcare system approximately $1.6 billion annually.
With summer finally being here and Christmas just around the corner, our podiatrists at South Burnett Podiatry have filled you in on how to best look after you foot health over the holidays if you have diabetes, including your risks, what changes or warning signs to look for in your feet, and why a diabetic foot health check is a must this summer if you haven’t already had one this year.
Diabetes & Your Feet: The Risks
Diabetes impairs your ability to absorb sugar (glucose) out of your bloodstream, where it ends up after consumption, and deliver it as a form of much-needed energy to the cells around your body. Instead, high levels of glucose remain directly in the bloodstream and as a result, toxins are produced that negatively affect all body organs and systems, including your circulatory system and the nerves in your feet and legs. Simply put, your ability to fight infection, supply enough oxygen and nutrients to your cells, efficiently heal wounds and the general ability of your feet to feel what is happening around them, all worsen.
Why These Risks Matter To You
Our nerves are responsible for our ability to feel, detecting everything from gentle touches to painful abrasions. When our nerves are damaged, our ability to feel can fade, become mixed up, and may eventually be lost altogether. This is called neuropathy.
Neuropathy can feel like numbness, burning, tingling, or pins and needles. The most dangerous sensation change is the complete absence of feeling, as opposed to a numb feeling where you still detect pressure and other changes. This means that you can sustain a cut, not know it’s there, and not take the right measures to disinfect it, dress it and let it heal. This makes you vulnerable to infection and if left unmanaged, amputation.
When your circulation is diminished, your tissues aren’t able to receive the regular, healthy amount of blood (with the oxygen, nutrients and immune cells) they need to thrive and effectively carry out essential cellular processes. You may notice changes in the feet like a pale, dry skin appearance, brittle toenails, perpetually cold feet, and a lack of hair growth on the toes.
A poorer blood supply means that when you sustain a wound, it will take longer for the body to heal, leaving it open and vulnerable to picking up an infection for longer, especially when you consider how the feet are closer to more dirt and bacteria. If an infection takes hold, your impaired blood flow also makes it more difficult for your body to fight it, creating a myriad of potential problems. This is why it’s essential to take good care of your feet if you have diabetes.
Your Feet: Warning Signs To Look For This Summer
You must let your podiatrist or GP know if you notice any injuries, like cuts or wounds on your feet, that you didn’t feel occurring. If any wounds are showing any signs of infection, including warmth, redness, swelling or any discharge, this is a sign you need to make an appointment immediately. Infected wounds can quickly turn to diabetic foot ulcers when not properly managed.
Signs your circulation may be diminished include changes in the colour of the skin on your feet (often growing paler, but redness can be a sign that something is wrong too), lack of hair growth on the toes and legs, cold feet, shiny skin, regular cramping, and non-healing wounds.
A quick and easy test is to push down on your big toe for approximately 5 seconds until the blood drains out of the toe and it appears white/yellow. Let go, and count how long it takes for the toe to redden and re-fill with blood. If it takes longer than 3 seconds, your circulation may be impaired.
Signs of nerve damage may include tingling, pins and needles, burning, numbness, pain and the appearance of injuries that you never felt occuring.
Diabetic Foot Checks Minimise Your Risks & Teach You How To Care For Your Feet
It is recommended that those with diabetes have a foot health check every year. These checks are performed in-house by our podiatrists here at South Burnett Podiatry, and we’ll discuss all the results and findings, then give you the best and most relevant information to help you take control of your foot health and help prevent more serious problems from arising. Your diabetic foot health check involves:
- Examining the condition of your feet and skin, including around your heel and ankle, underneath and in between your toes, and of your toenails
- Checking for corns, calluses, changes in shape, any cracks or dry skin or areas that look discoloured - and making a plan to address any problems or causes for concern that are identified
- Assessing your current level of sensation
- Assessing your current circulation, including pulse testing, capillary refill, and temperature
- Checking your shoes to make sure they’re not causing any problems, like putting you at risk of rubbing or skin tears
- Monitoring and treating any existing wounds, and any previous ulcer sites
This is a comprehensive assessment designed to give both us and you the full picture of what’s happening with your feet and your current risks. If we identify any urgent problems that require specialist care, we’ll refer you appropriately.
We’re Always Here To Help
Looking after your foot health and preventing serious problems before they start is our priority. Book your diabetic foot health check with our podiatrists in Kingaroy by calling us on 07 4162 7633.