We use our feet for walking, jogging, dancing, standing and more! Healthy feet
are essential to maintaining mobility and freedom. However damage to the feet is one of the most common diabetes complications. In fact, approximately 70% of all the lower limb amputations in WA occur in people with diabetes. Therefore, taking care of your feet is a very important part of your diabetes care regimen.
Why are feet at risk?
If blood glucose levels, cholesterol and blood pressure are high for an extended period of time it can narrow arteries and cause poor circulation. This can also occur if a person has had diabetes for a long time. Poor circulation means that oxygen and nutrients are restricted to extremities, such as the feet and much less commonly the hands. Symptoms of this include pain, cold feet, leg cramps and more. It can also lead to slow healing and an increased risk of infection after injury. People with diabetes are also at risk of damage to the nerves in the feet. Symptoms of this can include: loss of sensation, pain, coldness, tingling or a ‘pins and needles’ sensation. The symptoms of loss of sensation, combined with the slow healing and risk of infection that comes with poor circulation, means that it can be very easy for damage to the feet to go unnoticed and therefore untreated.
Professional and Self Care: It’s a team effort!
A podiatrist is an important member of your health care team. A podiatrist will examine your feet and let you know whether they are at low or high risk. Low risk feet have good blood flow and sensation. However it is important to remember that low risk feet can become high risk very quickly. Therefore it is important to have your pulses and sensations checked by a podiatrist or diabetes educator every 6-12 months. Checking and caring for your feet everyday can help prevent issues from developing.
People with high risk feet may have calluses, reduced blood flow, foot ulcers, have had one or more toes amputated in the past or little-to-no-sensation. In this case appointments should be made with a diabetes educator or podiatrist every 3-6 months, or as advised.
Podiatrist Gary McMaster from Bunbury Podiatry Surgery has been caring for the feet of people with diabetes for over 30 years, and says that checking your feet daily is essential to good foot health.
“Look at your feet every morning or night,” he says. “Is there anything different from the last time you looked? Has a toe changed colour? Is there a cut or graze you didn’t feel? Is there fluid seeping out from under a nail? Is there a cut that was healing, but now looks darker at the edges and yellow or green in the middle? Is there a blister? If the answer is yes, see your doctor, diabetes educator or podiatrist that day.”
As with other diabetes complications, monitoring and managing the 3 B’s – blood glucose, blood pressure and blood cholesterol – will help you reduce your risk of damage due to diabetes.
Mr McMaster says it can be disheartening to see people having to deal with the consequences of simple mistakes, such as having their feet to close to the heater, or wearing new shoes all day when they lack sensation in their feet. However that with good management of their diabetes, and common sense, most people could avoid damage to their feet.
- To book into FootSmart call 1300 136 588 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- To find a podiatrist near you visit the NDSS online services directory (external link).
Bec is a Credentialled Diabetes Educator at Diabetes WA.