Diabetes & your feet – these are your risks!

Diabetes & your feet

Every single day, 280 Australians are diagnosed with diabetes. This brings the number of us currently affected to a staggering estimated 1.7 million – and counting. While the association between diabetes and blood sugar ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ is more commonly known, the large impact that diabetes can have on the feet isn’t. Because diabetes is the leading cause of non-traumatic lower-limb amputation in Australia, it’s important that we fill you in on the relationship between diabetes and your feet. Diabetes may affect the foot by impairing the foot’s:

  • Blood supply
  • Nerve supply
  • Ability to fight infection

Keeping our feet healthy requires a number of the body’s systems to work together. The cardiovascular system supplies oxygen-rich infection-fighting fresh blood to the skin, muscles and bones of our feet. The neurological system enables us to distinguish between sensations such as hot and cold, sharp and blunt, vibration, pain and pressure. For many diabetics, over a period of time, these healthy systems can be affected. 

Our blood vessels may become narrower. This compromises our body’s ability to effectively deliver blood to our feet. Reduced blood-flow leads to malnourishment of our skin, muscles and bones. Our feet can become considerably colder and paler in colour. Wounds will take longer to heal and the likelihood of infection increases.

In addition, chemical damage to the nerves in our lower-extremities may result in a loss of sensation in our feet. This means we could step on a sharp rock, fracture a bone or drop boiling water on our toes and not feel it. In general, this is known as peripheral neuropathy and should emphasise an important point: Even if foot problems are painless, they can still be serious.

Tips to reduce the risk of complications at home

Thankfully, there are a number of simple and easy things you can be doing from the comfort of your own home to reduce your risk of developing complications from diabetes in your feet and legs. These include:

  • Checking your feet daily for cuts, blisters, bruises, colour changes, swelling and open sores. Report them to your healthcare practitioner immediately
  • Using a mirror in a bright room to see the soles of your feet or ask someone to check them for you to check for any of the above symptoms
  • Always protecting your feet. Wear suitable footwear inside (like slippers) and outside (like sneakers) the home
  • Checking the inside your shoes for any sharp objects and rough edges that may pierce and damage the skin
  • Always washing feet with soap and water. Take care to wash between the toes. Dry feet carefully, especially between the toes
  • Applying moisturiser to feet daily
  • Cutting toenails straight across and filing rough edges
  • Keeping wounds covered with a dry non-stick dressing
  • Having your feet checked periodically by a podiatrist
  • Things you MUST avoid if you have diabetic symptoms
  1. Footwear with a pointed toe as this may squash the forefoot leading to blisters, wounds and changes in bone position, such as bunions
  2. Footwear with a high heel (greater than 4cm) as this causes an uneven distribution of pressure across the sole of our feet. Areas of high pressure are prone to ulcers
  3. Footwear that is strapless/backless as the foot will not be secure in the shoe or sandal. This can cause rubbing and sliding of the foot inside the shoe when walking, leading to blisters and ulcers
  4. Tight socks or garters as these may impair the blood supply to the legs and feet
  5. Walking in bare feet (especially outdoors) due to the risk of burns from hot surfaces or wounds from sharp objects
  6. Over the counter corn or wart treatments as these can cause harmful inflammatory reactions which result in serious wounds
  7. Smoking as it shrinks the blood vessels in our lower-limbs and therefore further reduces blood flow to the feet
  8. Jewellery on the feet such as rings and chains as these can cause wounds from rubbing or being too tight or sharp
  9. Because the symptoms of diabetes progressively worsen over time, it’s important to know what’s happening with your feet right now and what your specific risks are. This way you can make the safest choices for your feet and track your progress over time. The first step in doing this is to see your podiatrist for a diabetic foot health check. This is a pain-free, simple and thorough assessment that checks the sensation and circulation in your feet and identifies any impairments to these important processes.

Words of wisdom from your Podiatrist

As a podiatrist who sees diabetic foot complications, including non-healing ulcers, the best recommendation I can make is to follow the above advice to prevent complications developing – it will save much time, effort, pain and frustration compared to dealing with complications once they have already occurred. To book in your diabetic foot health check, give our friendly team at The Podiatrist a call on 07 4638 3022 or book online.

Call Now Book Online