What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that affects the way in which the body utilises glucose.
What causes diabetes?
There are two different types of diabetes: insulin dependent (type 1) and non-insulin dependent (type 2). Patients with type 1 diabetes cannot manufacture insulin from their pancreas so need insulin artificially to help them to control their blood glucose levels. Patients with type 2 diabetes develop the disorder later in life for many reasons. They can have a range of medications that help their body to cope with glucose in the blood. Type 2 diabetes is caused by many things such as the pancreas unable to make enough insulin or their body cells cannot respond to the insulin from the pancreas.
How does it affect my feet?
Some patients may experience a gradual sense of numbness in the foot (starting with the toes). This is known as diabetic neuropathy. If you lose some feeling in your feet it is simply more likely that if you damage your foot, you may not know about it. It is therefore recommended that you perform a daily foot check (using a mirror if necessary), if you experience diabetic neuropathy.
Diabetes can affect your eyesight so checking your feet may be difficult.
Diabetes may also affect the blood supply to the extremities, therefore you are more at risk of decreased nutrition getting to your skin, delayed healing or ulceration.
What can a podiatrist do?
There is no cure for diabetes however it can be controlled with diet and medication.
It is strongly recommended that diabetic patients see a podiatrist regularly. A podiatrist will know and understand the impact that diabetes can have on the foot and is trained to identify any problems that may require further medical attention.
It is really important that any patient (not only those with diabetes) stays on their feet and remains active. Keeping your feet healthy and pain free is one of the most important steps that you can carry out to achieve this.
How do I look after my feet with diabetes?
Always maintain good foot hygiene. Wash your feet regularly and ensure you dry them thoroughly as well.
Due to the complications that are associated with diabetes, nail cutting is more risky, so if you wish to look after your own nails and they are not too thickened, it is advisable to file them down rather than cut them.
Keep your skin on your feet and legs moist. Use emollient daily after bathing.
Remove any hard skin (callus) with either a pumice stone or foot file when the skin is dry (reducing callus will prevent the skin from splitting). Do not try to reduce corns or callus with corn plasters or any sharp instruments. It is best to consult a podiatrist regarding these matters.
Perform a daily foot check to ensure you have no splinters or cuts.
Before putting your shoes on, put your hand inside to make sure there is nothing inside the shoe (a stone for example) that could harm your foot.
Avoid putting your feet through extreme temperature changes. Check the temperature of bath water before putting your foot in.
Seek help from a podiatrist if you are unsure about how to deal with any problem.