It is predicted that up to 415 million people are living with diabetes in the world. This means that 1 in every 11 people have diabetes in the adult population. The prevalence of diabetes in the UK alone is estimated to be over 4 million.
As the number of people living with diabetes continues to escalate, it becomes more urgent than ever to educate people about diabetes foot care. Foot care among people living with this condition is of particular importance as foot related complications account for 25% of all hospital admissions.
Foot ulcers, for instance, which affect as many as 2 out of 10 people with diabetes, can all too easily develop from small wounds to posing a risk of amputation. Even small blisters on the feet can present a dangerous risk – they may heal too slowly and require extreme treatment to cure.
Taking care of your feet as a person with diabetes shouldn’t be difficult. In fact, it should be an essential consideration.
We are going to provide basic information about how diabetes affects your feet and what you can do to keep your feet healthy.
Diabetes and your feet
The presence of high glucose levels in blood over an extended period causes nerve damage (a condition known as Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy – DPN) or loss of circulation to the feet and legs (a condition known as Peripheral Arterial Disease – PAD).
If the nerves in your legs and feet become damaged, your feet can become numb. This makes it less likely to feel a foot injury, such as a cut or a blister.
Unnoticed and untreated, small foot injuries quickly become infected, leading to serious foot complications. These can include:
- Foot ulcers – open wounds on feet
- Charcot foot – deformation of feet
Daily foot care
As is always, prevention is better than cure. A good daily foot care routine is your best bet if you want to maintain healthy feet.
Essentially, you should have a simple foot care kit containing a nail file, nail clippers, foot lotion or cream for diabetics, and a small hand mirror. Ensuring that you have all of these items will make it easier to follow a daily foot care routine.
1. Wash your feet with mild soap and warm water
2. Dry your feet thoroughly, especially the area between your toes as it is prone to fungal infections
3. Apply lotion on your feet to prevent drying and cracking. Don’t use the lotion between your toes because the moisture can encourage infection
4. Do not soak your feet, as you’ll risk infection in case the skin breaks down
5. If you have nerve damage, ensure the water temperature is ideal because you might burn your skin if you can’t feel the water is too hot
6. Clean cuts and scratches with mild soapy water and cover with a dressing that’s good for sensitive skin
7. Using a hand mirror, thoroughly check your feet to make sure there are no cracks, cuts, blisters and ingrown toenails
8. Wear clean socks and well-fitting footwear every day. If possible, wear white socks so it can be easy to spot a cut or sore
Weekly foot care
1. Trim toenails straight across using a nail clipper. Don’t cut them too short.
2. Avoid cutting round the corners or down the sides to prevent ingrown toenails
3. Smooth any sharp edges using an emery board
When to talk to your doctor
Your doctor should inspect your feet during each visit. If you have any foot problems, you should be checked more often. Contact him/her when you notice problems such as:
- Onset of sores, wounds, blisters, corns and ingrown toenails
- Loss of sensation to touch, heat and cold
- Changes to the colour and shape of your feet
- Thickening and yellowing of toenails
- Loss of hair on legs, feet and toes
- Any signs of infection such as reddening or blackening
If you have any of the problems above, contact your doctor immediately because any delay can result in serious complications. Your healthcare providers should also answer your questions and give you information on foot care.
If need be, your healthcare specialist can recommend a podiatrist/pedorthist who specialises in diabetic footcare. He/she can also give you information about the best type of shoes you should wear.
Diabetes-related foot complications can worsen very quickly and are harder to treat, so it’s of paramount importance that you take good care of your feet and seek immediate medical attention if you notice any problems.