What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition in which the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high because the body is unable to use it properly.  This is because insulin is lacking or the body’s way of making glucose into energy is not working properly.

There are two common forms of Diabetes:

 Type 1 is also known as insulin dependent diabetes.  This usually starts in children and young adults. People with this type of diabetes require daily insulin injections.

 Type 2 is the most common and usually affects people over the age of 40 years.

How diabetes affects your feet

Your feet are supplied with blood to keep them healthy.  They also have lots of nerves as a warning system.  For example if you have a stone in your shoe, nerves will send a message to your brain.  However, if your diabetes is poorly controlled for a long period of time, this may lead to:

Nerve damage which reduces feeling in the feet and/or poor circulation.

Nerve damage may mean that you no longer notice the stone in your shoe, due to loss of feeling in your feet.  This could then lead to an injury you can’t feel, and possible infection.

If you have poor circulation, any injuries or infections to your feet (ie cuts, burns or scratches) will take longer to heal.  This is due to less blood flowing into your feet.  Blood provides energy to muscles and aids in healing any tissue damage.  If you have poor circulation, you will need to take extra care to protect your feet from injury.  Most foot problems in people who have diabetes occur when injuries, and often infections, go unnoticed and untreated, or when healing is delayed due to poor circulation.

How can I detect any changes early?

A six monthly check by your Podiatrist will help to detect any changes early, before they become a problem.  Your Podiatrist will examine your circulation by feeling foot pulses.  They will also examine sensation by testing reflexes, vibration and pressure sensitivity, and heat sensitivity.  Your Podiatrist will also look for general foot conditions which may lead to future problems.

To prevent problems

  • Protect your feet from injury
  • Inspect your feet every day (your podiatrist can show you how)
  • See your podiatrist immediately if something is not healing or you find a red swollen area
  • Maintain acceptable blood sugar level control
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid barefoot walking
  • Keep your feet clean
  • Wear well-fitting shoes
  • Have corns, callouses and other foot problems treated by a podiatrist

Footwear advice

  • The best type of footwear fits well and protects your feet.  Whenever possible wear shoes to avoid injury.
  • Where possible wear lace-up shoes which are deep and broad enough especially at the toes.
  • Check inside your shoes for rough edges or exposed tacks, shake them out to make sure there is nothing inside.
  • Cotton hosiery, socks and tights, worn with leather upper shoes are good choices.

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