A major aim of World Diabetes Day, which is held annually on 14 November by the International Diabetes Federation and World Health Organisation, is to raise awareness of the health complications often experienced by diabetics, such as severe foot problems.
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or know someone who has the condition, you’ll have heard that it can result in high blood sugar levels. Diabetics’ bodies either produce too little insulin to regulate the amount of glucose in their blood (a problem that causes Type 1 diabetes) or are resistant to the hormone’s effects (the cause of Type 2 diabetes).
High blood sugar is linked to health problems including poor circulation and nerve damage. If your blood flow or feeling is impaired, your feet can easily suffer. Diabetes UK emphasises that ‘people with diabetes have a much greater risk of developing problems with their feet’ than non-diabetics. The charity’s Putting Feet First campaign highlights a sobering fact: diabetes-related foot problems are the UK’s main cause of lower limb amputations, but most amputations among diabetics could’ve been prevented with proper foot care and treatment.
Common Foot Problems Can Have Serious Complications
If you experience any loss of sensation in your feet, you’ll become less aware of the pain and discomfort caused by minor foot complaints and injuries. For example, it might take you longer than usual to realise that you have a blister, callus or cut on your foot. As a result, a common problem can develop into a serious issue, such as ulceration.
When the skin on your feet is damaged, bacteria can easily enter your body and cause an infection (the symptoms of which include pus, redness, swelling and unusual warmth). High levels of blood sugar make infected areas worse, while poor circulation increases the time it takes for your body to fight off the infection and heal wounds. In severe cases, gangrene can take hold and toe, foot or leg amputation may be necessary.
Other serious problems associated with diabetes include foot deformities. When your nerves are damaged, they can’t communicate properly with the muscles in your feet. The muscles’ normal pattern of movement is disrupted and they become weak. That can lead to conditions such as hammertoes (i.e. toes that are bent and crooked) and make walking difficult.
Diabetics with considerable nerve damage are also prone to developing Charcot foot: their feet are so weak that the bones fracture and joints are destroyed.
Proper Foot Care is Absolutely Vital
Because diabetes makes you more vulnerable to serious foot complaints, it’s vital to take care of your feet and seek professional help swiftly if you notice a problem.
- Inspect your feet daily, looking for injury, infection or changes in shape
- Ensure hosiery and shoes fit well and aren’t restrictive
- Remove any grit from inside your shoes
- Wiggle your toes to help improve circulation
- Avoid walking barefoot, especially outside
Diabetic Foot Assessments from London Podiatrists
In addition to consulting foot specialists about specific problems, it’s advisable to attend regular diabetic foot assessments to help ensure that your feet are as healthy as possible.
We offer a diabetic foot assessment service at our London foot clinics, during which our experienced podiatrists perform thorough neurological, vascular and skin checks. Sensitivity, blood pressure, physical appearance and other aspects of foot health are assessed in well-equipped, hygienic surroundings, giving you peace of mind. We can then discuss any treatment you require.
To book a diabetic foot assessment with a London foot care professional, please call Feet By Pody today on 0207 099 6657 or email [email protected].