Diabetes Awareness and Your Feet

diabetes foot

Diabetes Awareness and Your Feet

This year, National Diabetes Week in Australia runs from 14-21 July 2024, a vital period dedicated to raising awareness about diabetes, its causes, treatment and far-reaching implications. This week is an opportunity to educate people on diabetes management, particularly focusing on the often-overlooked area of foot and lower limb health. Our podiatrists at footinjuryclinic see diabetic patients on a daily basis, offering specialised care that helps prevent serious complications and improves the quality of life for those living with diabetes. 

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way the body processes blood sugar (glucose). There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system attacks insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Type 2 diabetes, which is more common, occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin.

Insulin is a crucial hormone that allows glucose to enter cells and be used for energy. Without proper insulin function, glucose accumulates in the bloodstream, leading to high blood sugar levels. Over time, this can cause serious health complications, including cardiovascular disease, kidney damage, nerve damage, and vision problems.

How Does Diabetes Affect the Feet?

Diabetes can have significant impacts on the feet and lower limbs due to two major complications: peripheral neuropathy and peripheral artery disease (PAD).

Peripheral Neuropathy: High blood sugar levels can cause nerve damage, particularly in the extremities. This condition, known as peripheral neuropathy, leads to reduced sensation in the feet. Patients may not feel pain, heat, or cold, which increases the risk of unnoticed injuries, cuts, or diabetic foot blisters and ulcers. Without proper care, these minor injuries can develop into serious infections.

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD): Diabetes also contributes to poor circulation due to damaged blood vessels, a condition known as peripheral artery disease. Poor circulation means that any wounds or infections in the feet will heal more slowly. This combination of reduced sensation and impaired healing significantly raises the risk of developing ulcers and other severe foot conditions.

How our Podiatrists can Help in Diabetes Care

Our podiatrists play a crucial role in the diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing care of diabetic foot conditions. They perform comprehensive foot examinations to identify any early signs of neuropathy, poor circulation, or skin changes. Their expertise is vital in preventing and managing complications that can lead to severe outcomes, including amputation

  • Foot Care Education: Our podiatrists can educate patients on proper foot hygiene and care. They will teach patients how to do daily foot inspections, proper nail trimming, and learn the importance of wearing appropriate footwear.
  • Wound Management: In cases where foot ulcers develop, our podiatrists offer specialised wound care that may involve debridement (removal of dead or infected tissue), dressings, and the use of wound care products to promote healing.
  • Offloading Techniques: To prevent pressure on ulcers and promote healing, our podiatrists may recommend offloading techniques. This can include custom orthotics and special footwear to redistribute weight away from the affected area.
  • Infection Control: Managing and preventing infections is critical when it comes to diabetes. Our podiatrists work closely with patients’ healthcare providers to ensure that any infections are treated promptly with appropriate antibiotics or other therapies.

As it is often said, prevention is better than cure. With this in mind, our podiatrists take a proactive approach to foot health. This includes:

  • Routine Check-Ups: Regular foot examinations help detect problems early before they become severe. Podiatrists can identify subtle changes in the skin, nails, or structure of the feet that might indicate an underlying issue.
  • Customised Footwear: Proper footwear is essential in preventing foot injuries. Podiatrists can recommend and provide custom shoes, orthotics or insoles that offer better support and reduce the risk of pressure sores.
  • Gait Analysis: Analysing a patient’s gait can reveal abnormalities that might contribute to foot problems. Podiatrists can then suggest corrective measures or orthotic devices to improve walking mechanics and reduce strain on the feet.

National Diabetes Week 2024 serves as a reminder of the importance of comprehensive diabetes management, especially concerning foot and lower limb health. Our podiatrists are here to help. If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, contact our clinics today!