Diabetes can have a severe and devastating impact on your foot health due to the way it affects your ability to feel, and the blood flow to your feet. With over 1.7 million Australians currently living with diabetes and this disease being the leading cause of lower limb ulcers and amputation, it’s absolutely essential to understand your risks when it comes to your feet and legs, how we can help, and what you should be doing at home to help care for your foot health.
Your sensation diminishes
Medically referred to as peripheral neuropathy, diabetes causes damage to the nerves in your feet and legs, thereby reducing and altering your ability to feel. Initially, you may start feeling pins and needles, numbness and burning. As the damage worsens, however, you may lose sensation in your feet completely.
Total sensation loss is different to numbness, as any feeling in the affected areas will be absent without that numb, blanket-like feeling. Often, people will not realise this has occurred. This is the most dangerous symptom as you are susceptible to sustaining an injury, like a burn or cut, and being unable to detect it. This means you won’t know that you need to treat it, the wound may develop an infection.
Your circulation reduces
Your circulation also progressively worsens due to the damage to your blood vessels caused by diabetes. Poor circulation means that your ability to both fight infection and heal injuries is impaired, making it a dangerous combination and helping explain the high prevalence of ulcers among those with diabetes.
How we help
We work extensively with patients with diabetes to help them understand the current state of their lower limbs, their current risks, how to mitigate these risks, and provide regular palliative care (skin and nail care). We do this by helping assess any reduction in your sensation and circulation. As these both worsen over time, it’s important to have a yearly check, as different severities have different risks and care requirements.
Your assessment involves a comprehensive doppler assessment, which is an efficient and non-invasive way to assess your vascular status. These results are then passed on to your GP and any specialists you are seeing to help manage your diabetes.
Knowledge is essential to positive long-term outcomes, and we ensure that no question is left unanswered when it comes to diabetes and your foot health. Our goal is to help you reduce the rate of progression when it comes to the effects of diabetes on your feet, and enable you to continue to live a happy and active life.
Note: If you have been formally diagnosed with diabetes, you may be eligible for up to 5 Medicare-subsidised podiatry appointments every year. Talk to your GP to see if you are eligible for this care plan.
Caring for your feet at home
Those small daily routines really do make a world of difference when it comes to diabetes. Aside from managing your blood sugar, regular exercise and making healthy lifestyle choices, to promote your foot health we recommend making these daily habits:
- Moisturising the feet daily to improve sensation, and getting any corns or calluses treated as the thick skin may further diminish your sensation
- Checking for any undetected cuts or breaks in the skin, holding your foot up to a mirror if you can’t see the underside
- Wearing closed shoes outside to protect against cuts and slippers inside
- Monitoring how long any wounds take to heal and getting help if a cut has not closed over after 2-3 days
- Monitoring for signs of infection, and reporting this to your GP immediately