Foot complications – what to look for and how to avoid

How can diabetes affect my feet?

Diabetes-related foot complications are one of the most common reasons for hospital admissions. People with diabetes are three to seven times more likely to have a non-traumatic amputation than people without diabetes. This is because:

  • Diabetes can damage the nerves and blood vessels in the feet and legs.
  • Damaged blood vessels means less blood will reach your reach your feet.
  • Damaged nerves can change the feeling in your feet.

Reduced feeling in your feet means you may not notice a pressure injury, blister, corn or callous.

10 signs to look out for?

The following can be symptoms of poor blood supply:
  1. Numb or cold feet
  2. Aches and pains in feet or legs after walking
  3. Slow healing
  4. Changes in skin colour
The following can be signs of nerve damage:
  1. Numbness
  2. A burning sensation
  3. Pins and needles
  4. Sharp pains or cramps in feet and legs
  5. Being unable to feel sores, cuts or blisters. This can lead to infections, ulcers, gangrene and amputation
  6. Dry skin

Footwear

Wearing the right footwear plays an important role in the prevention of wounds or ulcers in the feet. Ensure your shoes do not cause foot problems – they should be professionally fitted and broken in slowly. Check both feet carefully after wear for blisters or skin irritations. If there is nerve damage in the feet, you should check your shoes inside for torn linings or sharp objects before putting them on. Shoes which do not fit properly or have been known to cause tissue damage or injury should be avoided. Any signs of infection or skin breakdown should be assessed by your GP or podiatrist.

There are different types of shoes for different activities but the following features are recommended. However, pay attention to your individual needs as well.

  1. Firm heel counter: Provides heel stability and support.
  2. Heel height: No greater than 2 ½ cms. Broad base gives greater stability.
  3. Sole: Should be reasonably firm throughout and flex or ‘break’ across the ball of the foot. Rubber composition provides shock absorption.
  4. Toe box: Deep and wide enough to allow toes to spread naturally.
  5. Upper lining: Leather is best. Perforations allow for the passage of air.
  6. Fastenings: Laces, buckles or velcro to ensure snug fit and prevent foot fatigue.
  7. Length: Approximately one thumb’s width beyond the longest toe.

It is advisable to try on new shoes in the afternoon as your feet tend to swell during the day.

Socks

Socks are also important. Avoid elasticated cuffs and check for pressure marks on your ankles. Seamless socks are also helpful as they reduce the risk of rubbing and blisters. Moisture-wicking materials help keep feet dry so that excess moisture doesn’t form a breeding ground for fungal infections. White-soled socks may be useful as they can alert you if you have a wound that is bleeding. Check out the socks in-store at diabetesshop.com.

Subsidised podiatrist visits

If you are living with diabetes you are entitled to five subsidised visits per calendar year to an allied health professional, such as a podiatrist. If you look after your diabetes with exercise and diet you should see a podiatrist once or twice a year. For those using medication three times a year is recommended. If you have lost feeling or circulation in your feet through arterial disease it is important to see a podiatrist as often as every six weeks.

Have more questions?

Call the Helpline on 1300 136 588 and ask to speak with a health professional.

 

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