Diabetes and foot health

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Download a copy of this factsheet hereDo you have diabetes? Here is what you need to know about the connection between your feet and diabetes – and why it is so important to maintain good foot health.

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What is diabetes?

Diabetes prevents the body from adequately converting glucose (sugar) into energy, which causes an excess of glucose and deficient insulin in the bloodstream. It can affect the entire body, and despite there being no cure, there are many ways to manage the disease.

How does diabetes affect my foot?

Diabetes causes the supply of glucose in the blood to decrease, which leads to limited blood levels overall. This can result in permanent nerve damage (called ‘peripheral neuropathy’ which reduces your ability to feel pressure and pain) and/or poor circulation (called ‘peripheral vascular disease’ which delays your ability to heal cuts or sores). Therefore poorly managed diabetes can increase your risk of developing ulcers or even lead to amputations.

Symptoms that warrant urgent review include cold feet, numbness, a sharp pain in your leg after walking, pins and needles, or any changes in foot colour – such as redder skin. Whereas any nail changes, corns, callouses, cracked or dry skin should be seen by your podiatrists within one week.

Given their extremity on the body, feet are often the first place to show such diabetic- related symptoms. This is why it is so important to pay attention to any changes in your feet if you have diabetes.

How can I manage my diabetes?

See your podiatrist regularly, who can use techniques such as analysis of foot blood pulses (via an artery), pressure sensitivity, vibration and reflex tests to determine issues related to your blood circulation or nerve function. If you notice something that is not healing on your feet, it is strongly recommended that you seek professional advice from a podiatrist.

As a general guide to prevent future diabetes-related problems in your feet, maintain acceptable blood sugar levels, don’t smoke, exercise regularly, avoid walking barefoot, maintain good foot hygiene, and wear well-fitting shoes.

Aside from this, maintain regular communication with your GP to receive updated treatment plans as prescribed.

Australian Podiatry Association