Living with Diabetes: How does it affect the feet?
By Gordon Lazarte
Diabetes is one of the most common and fastest growing chronic conditions, especially in the Western World. It is a result of an increased amount of glucose (sugar) in our blood. The body is unable to break down majority of the glucose (sugar) effectively and this can lead to damage of our blood vessels. Diabetes can result in many complications and some of which having serious effects on our feet.
Essentially, if you are living with either Type 1 or 2 Diabetes, you are in an increased chance of foot related complications such as:
Changes to blood circulation to the lower limb and feet
With reduced blood circulation to the feet, it is common to experience some of the following:
– Cramping in the legs whilst resting
– Heaviness in the calves during exercise, especially during short distances or when going up the stairs
– Feet feeling cold and losing colour
– Reduced healing time of cuts, scratches, wounds
Changes to nerve function in the lower limb and feet
As a result of reduced blood circulation, nerve supply can be affected and result in the following:
– Tingling sensations of the feet
– Burning sensations of the feet, especially at night
Damage to the nerves of the feet can result in loss of sensation. This can be dangerous as an individual may continue to walk on a cut without knowing and can increase the chance of the cut getting bigger and becoming infected.
Increased risk of infection and ulcer/wound formation
How can we look after our feet?
It is important to take care of our feet, in order to stay on top and prevent things from getting worse. This can be done in many different ways:
– Check your feet daily for any changes to its shape
– Check your feet for any cuts, scratches or abrasions that may have occurred recently
– Wash and dry your feet properly ensuring that the skin is kept healthy and intact
– Avoid wearing harmful footwear such as heels, tight fitting shoes, flats or thongs
When should I see a Podiatrist?
If you feel that you are experiencing any changes related to your circulation and nerve supply it is important to see your Podiatrist for safe and appropriate treatment/ management. Even minor things such as the following can have a large impact on an individual’s health.
– Callus and any painful corns
– Ingrown toenails
– Change in foot shape
– Cracked skin, especially of the heels
– Changes in nail colour
It is important to know that foot related complications can be prevented. An individual with well managed Diabetes, can live the rest of their life without serious complications. That is why it is important for your Podiatrist to conduct specific assessments which will inform of your current foot health.
Article By: Gordon Lazarte