Diabetes and the Foot
People with diabetes risk serious and disabling foot complications and even amputation. Recent research has shown that the risk for these complications is greatly reduced with good blood glucose control. Podiatrists can provide positive support to patients and help them to treat their feet carefully to ensure long term benefits.
Diabetes may affect the feet in two ways:
- Firstly, the nerves which enable you to feel pain, temperature extremes and give early warning of possible trauma, are damaged.
- Secondly, the blood supply to the feet is diminished due to damage to the blood vessels.
Under these circumstances, even a minor foot problem of little significance to other people can be hazardous for people with diabetes. The importance of proper foot care in diabetes is widely recognised. It is recommended assessment by a podiatrist who will advise a common sense, daily care routine to reduce the risk of injuries and complications. Here are some tips to help look after your diabetic feet:
- Maintain blood glucose levels within the range advised for you.
- Have an annual diabetic foot health check with your podiatrist as this can help identify problems early and they will communicate any issues to your health team.
- Encourage good blood circulation by regular walking, wearing good walking shoes.
- Choose footwear which is appropriate for your activity.
- Make sure to have your feet measured properly by a trained fitter.
- Check your shoes regularly for excess wear on the outside and for any rough spots on the inner lining.
- Wash your feet daily in warm (not hot) water, using a mild soap, and then dry thoroughly with a gentle blotting action.
- Use a moisturiser daily to stop heels cracking and to help keep the skin supple.
- Inspect feet daily for any sign of heat, redness, swelling or pain, using a mirror if necessary. Seek immediate help from a podiatrist or GP.
- Blisters, cuts and scratches should be cleansed at once with clean water or saline solution. Cover with a sterile dressing and seek advice from a podiatrist or your GP as soon as possible.
- “Corn cures” and medicated pads are caustic-based and can cause catastrophic foot problems. See your podiatrist for treatment of corns.
- Avoid extremes of heat and cold such as hot water bottles, radiators, hot sand/pathways and hot bath water.