Diabetes has a large impact on your feet - more than most people realise. If you have diabetes, there is a serious risk for developing an infection and ulceration if care is not taken. It is essential to have a Podiatrist as part of your management team and visit them regularly so you, and your GP, can be kept informed about the status of your feet.
Because the effects of diabetes worsen over time, advice and foot care strategies need to be specific to your symptoms. The two main things to look out for are changes to your sensation, and to your circulation.
Altered Sensation (Peripheral Neuropathy)
As diabetes impacts our feet, our nerves become damaged and our ability to feel worsens, becomes jumbled, and may eventually be lost altogether. This often affects both of the extremities, with changes in the foot sensation occurring before the hands.
Changes in sensations can include numbness, tingling and pins and needles. Other sensations may also get jumbled, such as hot feeling cold and numb feeling sharp, and vice versa.
Ultimately, you may completely lose sensation in the feet. This is the most dangerous symptom as it renders you vulnerable to incurring an injury and not being able to feel it, and not know to treat it. This may easily be something small like a pin, nail, or splinter. Any wound that results will be susceptible to infection, and the area may ulcerate.
Diabetes-related ulcerations are the leading cause of amputation in Australia.
Diabetes also impairs blood flow to the feet by causing damage to the blood vessels. Feet can become cold and pale, you may develop dry skin, and your toenails may become brittle and flaky. Wounds take longer to close and infections take longer to resolve. Coupled with the increased risk for injuries, infections and ulceration in diabetes, the consequences can be devastating.
This makes getting an annual diabetic foot check a necessity. During your examination we check:
- Circulation (blood flow to the feet)
- Nerve response (check sensation and feeling of feet)
- Signs of injury or damage to the feet that haven’t been picked up
- Toenails (shape and cutting technique)
- Skin (dryness/callous)
We also update you on what you need to be looking out for, what your risks are, and how to best care for your feet.