It’s important to take a holistic approach to managing diabetes. From controlling your blood sugar levels with food, exercise and any prescribed medication to having regular check-ups and taking care of your feet. Yup, your feet!
Read on to discover why—and how—to include your feet in a diabetes management plan.
Diabetes and your feet
Diabetes can cause damage to the nerves and the blood supply in feet and put them at risk of serious complications.
The nerve damage caused by diabetes is called ‘peripheral neuropathy’ and poor circulation in feet is called ‘peripheral vascular disease’.
These complications make it harder for someone with diabetes to detect cuts and sores on their feet because they reduce the ability to feel hot, cold or pain. They also increase the time it takes to heal — which can lead to infection.
You can see why early detection and treatment of diabetes-related foot problems is key to reducing your risk of complications and the need for amputations.
Fast feet facts
- Every year in Australia around 4,400 people have toes, feet or lower limbs amputated because of diabetes-related foot problems.
- 85% of diabetes-related amputations could be prevented if foot problems were detected and managed early.
Low and high-risk feet
Podiatrists use two risk types to categorise feet — high risk and low risk.
Low risk feet have normal sensation and good blood flow. People fall into the high-risk feet category if they’ve had a foot ulcer or amputation in the past.
Feet with calluses or deformities also have increased risk if they also have poor feeling and/or decreased blood flow.
If your feet are at high risk of complications, you should have them checked by your doctor or a Podiatrist regularly. You may be referred to a specialist or high-risk foot clinic.
How to look after your feet
When you have diabetes, you need to take care of your feet every day because diabetes can increase your risk of foot ulcers and amputations.
Daily foot care steps:
- Wash and dry your feet
- Check for changes or problems: look out for redness, swelling, cuts, blisters, ingrown toenails, and signs of infection
- Perform safe nail care by trimming nails straight across
- Remember to look between toes, around heels, nail edges and the soles of the feet.
Tip: if you can’t easily see or reach your feet to take care of them, use a mirror or ask someone else or a Podiatrist to look for you.
Annual foot care steps:
- Visit a Podiatrist for a check-up every year if your feet are low risk and more often, as recommended by your Podiatrist, if your feet are high risk.
- Make regular visits to your doctor and specialists to keep your blood sugar within range as much as possible, to prevent nerve damage or stop it from progressing.