In Australia, one person is diagnosed with diabetes every five minutes. As many as 15 percent of those people with diabetes will develop a foot ulcer at some point in their lives, and 6 percent of those will be hospitalized due to a related complication or infection. Of those 6 percent, many will have a condition which worsens to the point where a toe, foot or even leg may need to be amputated. When you have diabetes you are much more at risk of having foot problems so it is incredibly important that diabetics take care of their feet and get regular foot check-ups with a qualified podiatrist.
What foot problems can people with diabetes have?
People with diabetes may experience a range of foot problems including:
- Nerve Damage – Causing pain and numbness in the feet. Decreased nerve sensitivity may mean a small injury like a cut or blister may go unnoticed and eventually, this can cause more serious problems including the loss of feeling in the feet and toes.
- Ulcers – A foot ulcer is a wound that can occur on the foot or toes. This is where the tissue on a part of the foot or toe breaks down and creates open wound. Ulcers can grow larger and easily become infected. Treatment is lengthy and expensive and if not properly treated the affected limb may require amputation.
- Charcot Foot – Nerve damage in the feet can also cause weakening of the foot bones. When these bones weaken they can fracture, resulting in foot deformities.
- Reduced Blood Flow to the Feet – This means any sores or other problems will take longer to heal.
It’s easy to see why it’s really important for diabetics to take extra care of their feet. The decreased nerve sensitivity means that as a diabetic, any cuts, sores or other problems may go unnoticed and reduced blood flow means that the body’s healing ability is impaired.
How can a podiatrist help people with diabetes?
A podiatrist is an important part of any diabetes health care team. At The Walking Clinic, our team of podiatrists are specifically trained in diabetes foot care and can assess nerve damage, identify specific foot health risks and help come up with a treatment and prevention plan. We recommend people with either Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes have a foot assessment every six months, this will ensure any potential issues are identified early.
What is a diabetic foot assessment?
During a diabetic foot assessment, the podiatrist will check the blood flow to the feet by recording the pulse rate in two places, on the top of the foot and the inside of the ankle. Another assessment of blood flow is establishing a toe pressure, this is similar to the blood pressure of your arm, however establishes the amount of blood flow reaching the tips of your toes. This is a very important test to establish the body’s ability to heal injuries. The podiatrist will also check the sensitivity of the nerve endings in the feet. This is done by asking the patient to close their eyes and then they will be asked to identify different sensations. Should there be any concerns about reduced blood flow or nerve damage, a GP will be notified and ultrasounds will be needed for further investigation.
In Australia alone, 4400 diabetic related amputations occur per year, with the majority being toes or feet. The astonishing fact is that 80% of these amputations are preventable through early intervention. The Walking Clinic Podiatrists are your local trusted experts in diabetes foot care in the Canberra region. Make an appointment today and keep your feet in good hands.