Diabetes And How It Affects Your Feet.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that develops from high blood glucose levels which can cause damage to the nerve systems in your body by stopping important messages getting to and from your brain. This nerve damage is called Neuropathy. High blood glucose levels can also damage your blood vessels and thereby circulation to your feet and legs, due to less blood getting to your skin, muscles and tissues. This circulation damage is called ischaemia.
How serious is it?
Any injury or hard skin has the potential to develop into something more serious if you have diabetes. When the skin is damaged, you may not feel it as acutely and it may not heal so easily. Sometimes this can cause an ulcer to form on your foot.
Who gets it?
In short anyone. However you’re more likely to if your close relatives have the disease. Higher risk factors are obesity, high cholesterol and blood pressure as well as physical inactivity and this only gets higher as one gets older!
Symptoms of Diabetes?
Diabetes may affect your feet in a number of ways. One of the early changes can be loss of sensation in your feet, often starting at the toes. The onset of neuropathy (loss of sensation) is gradual and often people who develop this complication are unaware of it at the start. Most diabetics can experience this within 7-10 years but it can often be sooner if blood sugar levels have not been controlled. In addition to sensation, your toes may start to claw and the bones in your feet can become more susceptible to fractures. Diabetes affects the blood flow to your feet too, which can reduce the natural healing process. Always be aware of blisters or cuts that do not heal.
To avoid foot problems ensure you manage your diabetes well, controlling blood glucose levels and leading a healthy active lifestyle. Your chances of doing this will be greatly increased if you do not smoke. By adopting these measures, you can prevent or slow down any changes to the nerves and blood vessels that supply your legs and feet.
Everyone who has diabetes should also have their feet checked regularly with a healthcare professional (podiatrist) at least once a year. As with any illness, if you fall into high risk categories, then more regular checks are recommended.
Check feet daily, moisturise and in doing so your hands may pick up anything unusual on the soles of your feet. Moisturising also improves the skin integrity and reduces cracks and splits which can lead to problems.
Always ensure the correct natural fibre (cotton/wool) socks are worn and that they don’t leave an indent as this means they’re reducing your circulation. Well fitting footwear with laces or Velcro straps should be worn at all times. Footwear that holds your foot, not that your foot has to hold onto. Slippers out- trainers in!
Keep clean any cuts scratches or wounds with salt water (a ratio of a teaspoon of table salt to a pint of recently boiled and cooled water).
Immediately dress any wounds with sterile plasters to prevent infection and show a healthcare professional (practice nurse or your Podiatrist) as soon as possible.
Always tip your shoes out before putting them on, especially if you have young grandchildren- incase they’ve hidden their lego or marbles in them!
Never sit with your feet too close to a fire.
Visit a podiatrist for treatment of corns and calluses. (avoid using corn plasters)
How can your Podiatrist help?
The Podiatrist will normally check both the blood supply to your feet and any evidence of loss of sensation in your feet. Blood supply will be checked by looking at the colour of the skin, checking the pulses in the feet and by asking questions about certain kinds of pains in your feet and legs. The Podiatrist will also check the two pulses in your feet, either by hand or by using a doplar to listen.
Sensation will usually be checked with a monofilament and tuning fork. The monofilament is a plastic probe that is designed to buckle at a given pressure and is a good indicator for loss of feeling.
The podiatrist will also be looking for any foot deformity or signs of excessive loading that may warrant either footwear advice or in some cases the use of an insole.
Do I need to see the Podiatrist about it?
If you experience any form of pain or discomfort, it is advisable to consult your Diabetic Clinic or Podiatrist, since it is possible in many cases to alleviate these symptoms.
The following signs in your feet could indicate a problem therefore if you experience any of the below, you should seek medical attention or consult your Podiatrist:
Walking becomes more difficult
Applying or wearing shoes becomes more difficult
Tingling sensation or pins and needles
Swelling in part or all of your foot.
Breaks in the skin, opens sores/blisters or a discharge
Skin colour changes over part or all of the foot
Temperature changes where part or all of your foot feels much hotter or colder than usual
Hard skin (callus)
Cramp in your calves
Shiny smooth skin
Loss of hair on your feet and legs
Burnham Podiatry Clinic | Looking After your Feet | Podiatrist In Burnham | Diabetes