Diabetic Foot Care
Diabetic Foot Care

Foot care is particularly important if you have diabetes. Foot problems are a common complication of this condition. Your feet can be affected in two ways. The blood supply may be affected, resulting in slower healing. You may also lose some feeling in your feet due to nerve damage. A person whose nerves is damaged by diabetes may not realize they have minor cuts or blisters, which can lead to ulcers.

Foot problems can be avoided if you take care of your feet and act quickly when you have a problem. Get your feet checked at least once a year by a doctor or podiatrist to detect problems early and help prevent complications.

When you have diabetes, you need to take very good care of your feet every day. If you do this then you can prevent serious complications.

Your feet are at risk because diabetes can cause damage to the nerves and the blood supply. This damage is more likely if
  • You have had diabetes for a long time.
  • Your blood glucose levels have been too high for an extended period.
  • You smoke.
  • You are inactive.

There are two types of risk to feet, high risk and low risk. Knowing the risk and taking care of your feet can prevent serious problems even amputation. A doctor, podiatrist or Credentialled Diabetes Educator can carry out an easy and painless check on your feet to determine whether your feet have a low or high risk of developing more serious problems.

Nerve Damage

Poor blood glucose control can cause nerve damage to feet. Symptoms include:

Numbness
Coldness of the legs
A tingling, pins and needles sensation in the feet
Burning pains in the legs and feet, usually more noticeable in bed at night.

These symptoms can result in a loss of sensation in the feet which increases the risk of accidental damage because you can’t feel any pain. An injury to the feet can develop into an ulcer on the bottom ofa foot, which can penetrate to the bone. This could lead to osteomyelitis and a chronic infection in the bones and joints. If an infection isn’t treated at the earliest signs, this could result in ulceration (an infected, open sore) and eventually amputation (removal of a toe, foot or limb).

See our podiatrist or Credentialed Diabetes Educator if you have any of these symptoms.

Blood Supply

Poor blood glucose control can cause a reduced supply of blood to the feet. This makes people with diabetes more prone to infection following any injury that breaks the skin. Signs of poor blood supply include:

Sharp leg cramps after walking short distances or up stairs.
Pain in the feet, even at rest (often in the early hours of the morning).
Feet feeling cold.
Feet looking a reddish-blue color.
Cuts which are slow to heal.
See our podiatrist, doctor or Credentialled Diabetes Educator if you have any of these symptoms.

Checking Your Feet

You need to have your feet checked every year for low risk feet and every 3 – 6 months for high risk feet. The check-up will include looking at the following:

Blood flow to the feet (circulation).
Feeling and reflexes (nerves).
Unusual foot shapes (including bunions, claw toes and hammer toes).
Toenails.
Dryness, calluses, corns, cracks or infections.
People with diabetes who have misshapen feet and nerve damage are the most likely to develop.

Ulcers from too much pressure over some areas of the feet
More corns and calluses due to too much pressure on one area and can be avoided with some changes.

Seek our podiatrist’s help to remove calluses or corns before they become ulcers as these can become infected, risking amputation.

Caring for Your Feet

In addition to regular check ups with a podiatrist you should also.

Seek more information about how to care for your feet from a podiatrist or Credentialled Diabetes Educator.

Have your feet checked at least once a year by your doctor or other health professional.

Know your feet well - wash, dry and check your feet every day. Check for redness, swelling, cuts, pus discharge, splinters or blisters, being especially careful to look between toes, around heels and nail edges and at the soles of the feet. If you have difficulty with your vision get someone to check for you Cut your toenails straight across - not into the corners - and gently file any sharp edges. If you can’t properly see or reach your feet to cut your toenails, ask someone to do it for you.

Moisturize your feet daily to avoid dry skin.
Never use over-the-counter corn cures.
Cover your feet with a clean sock or stocking without rough seams.
Don’t wear tight socks or stockings

Protect your feet in a shoe which fits well - the right length (a thumb width longer than your longest toe), width and depth - and has been checked for stones, pins, buttons or anything else which could cause damage.

Keep your feet away from direct heat such as heaters, hot water bottles and electric blankets.

Get medical advice early if you notice any change or problem.

Injuries

If you find an injury, including a cut, blister, sore, red area or open crack, immediately:

Wash and dry the area.
Apply good antiseptic e.g. Betadine.
Cover with a sterile dressing, available from pharmacies.

If any injury does not improve within 24 hours, make an urgent appointment to see your doctor to avoid serious complications.

Seek urgent medical advice for even the mildest foot infection, including any sore, open wound or crack which is oozing, contains pus or any type of discharge or which does not heal within a week.

Is there any treatment for foot or lower limb neuropathy?

Currently there aren't many treatments available. If your neuropathy is of a painful type there are a number of drugs that may help. Our doctor will be able to determine which medicines are best for you. There is some evidence from research that improving your blood glucose levels may go some way towards reversing nerve damage.

Is there any treatment for poor blood supply to the feet?

Surgery can sometimes help, depending on the sort of blood vessel damage you have. Some of the larger arteries in the lower limbs can be very successfully reconstructed. This type of surgery is done by vascular surgeons.

If you have circulation problems or reduced feeling in your feet

See a podiatrist at least once each year.

Do not attempt to treat corns and calluses yourself.