What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease where your body does not make enough insulin or the body does not use insulin well. Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas and it is responsible for converting glucose (sugar) from food to energy. If insulin is not adequately converting sugar to energy for the body then the sugar will stay in the blood causing high blood glucose levels. The long-term effect of this can be damage to the body’s organs and systems, including the circulatory system and the peripheral nerve of the lower limb.

Diabetes is a complex disease and requires careful long-term management.  Although diabetes has no cure, steps can be taken to manage it and enable you to stay healthy.

Effect on the Feet

Diabetes can have;

  • Nerve damage or peripheral neuropathy – numbness, burning sensation, pins and needles, tingling, pain, coldness
  • Blocked blood vessels or decreased blood flow – may lead to poor healing ‘
  • Weakened bones and collapsed joints, especially in the arch
  • Blisters and Calluses
  • Ulcers or wounds – the layers of skin can breakdown more easily
  • Infections, Gangrene and Amputation in the most severe case

Prevention is Better than Cure!!

  • Wear properly fitting shoes and socks
  • Avoid walking barefoot to avoid injury or stepping on a sharp object
  • Exercise to help blood flow to the foot
  • Follow a recommended diet
  • Avoid using over the counter medications such as corn pads or wart paint
  • Keep feet well moisturised to keep skin flexible

Assessment by a Podiatrist

Podiatrists play a very important role in the assessment, management and treatment of Diabetes. It is essential to have regular check ups;

  • Conduct a neurovascular assessment – this will look for signs of decreased circulation or decreased nerve sensation
  • Assess your risk factors and provide education on how to care for your feet
  • Trimming nails to prevent complications like ingrowing nails
  • Removing calluses and corns to prevent infection
  • Assessing pressure areas and foot biomechanics to help reduce the chance of ulceration
  • Check the feet for lacerations, wounds or infections and make sure they are promptly treated
  • Provide advice on the purchase of suitable shoes

Seek Advice

It is important for a diabetic to check or have someone else check their feet daily. Seek advice if you have diabetes and you notice any of the following:

  • Abnormal tenderness or swelling
  • Changed colour in your feet
    - Paleness or bluish colour of the toes may indicate decreased circulation
    - Black skin can be a sign of dead tissue
    - Redness could be a sign of infection
  • Temperature
    - Extra warm areas may indicate infection
    - Coolness may mean decreased blood flow
  • Pins and needles, tingling, numbness or burning – may be the result of nerve damage in the foot
  • Blisters, corns or calluses or any pressure areas
  • Cracks, wounds or ulcers – get immediate attention

For further information visit Diabetes Australia website.