We know that as people with diabetes, we need to be careful of our feet. Footcare is so important. But do you know why? We unpack all you need to know about diabetes and feet.
What you need to know about diabetes and feet
For a person living with diabetes, short-term and long-term complications in the feet are serious. There are all kinds of causes for concern! Corns and calluses, blisters, soggy skin between the toes, dry papery skin, dry cracked skin, itchy feet, pins and needles sensation, thickened nails, ingrown nails, fungal infections of the nails or skin, or foot deformities such as flat feet, bunions or even just crooked toes. Podiatrists are trained to manage these conditions and are essential members of your medical team.
Medical team dealing with diabetes and feet
“My medical team?” you may ask. Today, the focus is on empowering you, the person living with diabetes, with knowledge so that you can manage your care together with your team of health professionals. Health care professionals can’t be with you every second of your day, so you need to learn as much as you can from them about diabetes. This ensures you can make good lifestyle and self care choices, and to ask questions when you need to.
“Do I really need to consult these other people – isn’t it enough to just see my doctor every month?” you might ask. Global research has shown that the team approach has the best results in preventing diabetes complications. The focus is on health and well-being rather than illness.
Who’s in your medical team?
- Your doctor or endocrinologist will examine you regularly to monitor your overall responses to medication. They’ll adjust medication when necessary.
- A diabetes educator or coach will help you understand your medication, explain how to use a glucometer (blood glucose meter) and discuss lifestyle choices.
- A dietician will help you through the early confusing days of learning about different foods, how to balance them and keep your blood sugar from fluctuating too much.
- An ophthalmologist will check inside your eyes for damage every year, so that early laser repairs or special medications can be given to save your eyesight.
- And a podiatrist should examine you at least once a year. They will carry out the extensive foot screening and assessment examinations, footwear examination and foot care education. If the foot examinations pick up any disorders in the foot, then more frequent and regular visits to the podiatrist will be necessary.
Scary stats: diabetes and feet
The diabetic foot in South Africa, as in all parts of the world, is associated with a high risk of amputation. In South Africa it has been reported that diabetes accounted for 60.2% of the non-traumatic lower extremity amputations in public hospitals in the Cape Town Metropole.
In fact, every 30 seconds a lower limb is lost to diabetes. This may be due to uncontrolled diabetes that commonly leads to loss of sensation associated with peripheral neuropathy. Further reports state that lower limb amputation is 15 to 46 times higher in people with diabetes, than in people without diabetes.
– Anette Thompson, M Tech Podiatry (UJ) B Tech Podiatry (SA)