When it comes to our feet, we rarely think about diabetes.
Instead, things like calluses and ingrown toenails usually spring to mind. So what do our feet have to do with diabetes?
There are vast numbers of Australians with diabetes, pre-diabetes or undiagnosed diabetes. As a result, many of us are living with diabetes foot disease – and some of us don’t even know it!
Having diabetes can increase your risk of foot ulcers and, in extreme cases, amputations. That’s why looking after your feet is really important.
In fact, Diabetes Australia recommends that everyone with diabetes sees a podiatrist regularly.
Read on to find out how diabetes can affect your feet, and how you can get help.
A conversation about diabetes and your feet
Tim: Alright Gus, as podiatrists we know that feet are super-important to managing diabetes as a whole. It’s difficult to exercise when our feet are sore! Not only that, our feet can tell us about diabetes disease progression before other symptoms occur.
Gus: Yeah, that’s true. There’s actually a lot that goes into a Diabetes Foot Risk Assessment. Let’s break down two of the main testing parts – I’ll take circulation, and you can talk about sensation.
Tim: Perfect. Talk us through circulation then, Gus.
Gus: Circulation is really a round-about way of describing the vascular or plumbing system of the body. The heart is the strong pump that sends oxygen and nutrient-rich blood around our bodies under high pressure. We also have the arteries which are flexible, elastic-like pipes which carry it to the farthest reaches of our bodies.
Tim: That’s the tips of the toes!
Gus: Yeah, that’s it. If the circulation system isn’t working due to a blockage in the arteries or the pump malfunctioning then we don’t get all that good stuff getting to the toes. In the worst cases, your toes can suffer tissue death and drop off. In earlier stages, we get things like cramps, aches, fragile skin and nails, and internal injuries to bones and tendons, which occur more easily and take longer to recover from.
Tim: And as podiatrists in Pascoe Vale we get to see a lot of feet, feel their temperatures and pulses but even more importantly – measure the pressure of the blood flowing to the tips of the toes.
Gus: Our circulation testing gives us really accurate information on the amount of blood flowing to the toes. It also allows us to track changes over time. If we do the tests at least annually we can pick up changes occurring well before any nasty complications occur. We can then act accordingly.
Tim: That’s great information. While the sensation system is no less important and has many more complex relationships than just the following, I’ll try to keep it brief.
Gus: Let’s hear it then!
Tim: If you can’t feel things, you don’t know if problems are occurring. Pain is a gift (and a curse). Also, if you can’t feel things you don’t always know you can’t feel things. Podiatry tests will give you accurate, repeatable and consistent data to check this against.
Gus: Very true. So as a recap, diabetes foot disease can be really nasty, but mostly preventable with sound early assessments and interventions. If you have diabetes you really should see us for minimum annual assessments and then semi-regular to regular check-ups to make sure everything stays under control.
Tim: There’s heaps of great information out there about what to do, and a good podiatrist will tailor their advice to you, your feet, your risk level and work with you on areas that need improvement. Check out this information about why you should have a diabetes foot risk assessment and some advice from Diabetes Australia about what to do at home as well.
Preventing diabetes foot disease is key
Don’t let the mostly preventable and manageable complications of diabetes foot disease affect you.
If you’re due for your diabetes foot risk assessment, or need any assistance with foot and ankle-related issues, you can book online or call us on 9304 0500 to get assessed.
Your health is precious. Look after yourself!
Note: This information is of a general nature only and should not be substituted for medical advice. It does not replace consultations with qualified healthcare professionals to meet your individual medical needs.