Diabetes is a disease that affects many Australians, and is characterised by the inability to manufacture or properly use insulin, a hormone used to help the body store sugars. When these sugars aren’t stored properly, the sugars remain in the bloodstream. These free-flowing sugars can cause damage to different parts of the body, especially the eyes, kidneys and you guessed it…the feet! Our feet rely on arteries to carry much needed blood from the heart down to our feet. A common complication of diabetes is narrowing and potential blockages in the arteries that carry the blood down to the feet. This can lead to a slower healing rate of wounds. In addition to this, the sugars in the blood can also cause damage to the nerves in the feet, which can lead to reduced feeling. This combination creates the perfect storm for developing ulcers and in some more serious cases, foot amputation. Because of this, diabetes management requires a team approach. A podiatrist is an integral part of the treatment team.
- 1 in 17 Australian adults (6%) approximately 1.2 million people in 2014–15—had diabetes.
- 28,800 people started using insulin in 2015 to treat their diabetes.
- 1 million hospitalisations were associated with diabetes (principal and/or additional diagnosis) in 2014–15, that is 10% of all hospitalisations in Australia.
It is important that all patients diagnosed with diabetes see a podiatrist. People with diabetes are more at risk of foot problems, these conditions include diabetic neuropathy (loss of normal nerve function) and peripheral vascular disease (loss of normal circulation). These two conditions can lead to:
- Diabetic foot ulcers: wounds that do not heal or become infected
- Infections: skin infections (cellulitis), bone infections (osteomyelitis) and pus collections (abscesses)
- Gangrene: dead tissue resulting from complete loss of circulation
- Charcot arthropathy: fractures and dislocations that may result in severe deformities
- Amputation: partial foot, whole foot or below-knee amputation
Diabetic Foot Care
It involves a thorough assessment of your feet and formulation of a preventative treatment plan. The foot check involves testing the circulation to the feet, testing the sensation in the feet, as well as looking for other potential risk factors for developing wounds, such as foot deformity. It is very important that anyone diagnosed with diabetes see a Podiatrist for a foot assessment and return to have their feet checked at least once a year.
Due to the seriousness of diabetes and the potential severity of its effects, we also educate patients on a regular basis about the manifestations of decreased circulation, decreased nerve sensation, weakened bones and collapsed joints. Education on foot care which aims to prevent the foot complications associated with diabetes has become widely recognised as an important aspect of diabetes education programs.
Of all of the foot problems our patients can present with, there is little that is more serious to life or limb than a foot complication due to diabetes. It is important to discuss your mobility and footcare problems with your Podiatrist. Your Podiatrist can advise which treatment or professional support is most appropriate to your needs.
Prevention is the best cure when it comes to caring for your feet with diabetes and regular podiatry visits are essential. Diabetes can be a serious disease, but with the right care the possibility of complications can be reduced. If you or someone you know has Diabetes insist that they have an assessment from a Podiatrist.