When a person first gets diagnosed with diabetes it can be quite a daunting prospect and you can become overwhelmed with information. One part of the body that your GP/Nurse will tell you to check regularly is your feet, but why?
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a systemic (whole body) condition. The body becomes unable to produce or utilise the hormone insulin and therefore our body cannot metabolise sugars; this then leads to elevated blood sugar levels.
Diabetes is split into two types, type 1 and type 2. Both are very different and caused by different reasons but are both very serious. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition whereby the body attacks its own insulin producing cells so no insulin is made. Type 2 is where the body cannot respond to the insulin properly or does not produce enough.
Diabetes and feet –
Having elevated levels of blood sugar over a long period of time can
1) cause destruction to small blood vessels
2) cause blood to become more viscous (thicker) so unable to flow through small blood vessels.
Your feet at the furthest point away from your heart, so the body will always work to protect the vital organs first. If you have compromised blood flow to your feet it means you can be at risk of:
· a wound not healing
· a wound becoming infected
· dry, cracked skin
· painful swollen ankles
As with the small blood vessels, the nerves in the feet are the furthest away from the brain and spinal cord. High blood sugar levels can cause irreversible damage to these nerves meaning:
· a lack of sensation
· unable to feel pain
· unable to feel hot/cold
· unable to detect vibration
· loss of propreception (awareness of where your body is in space)
There are many other ways diabetes can affect your body. It is important to get your feet checked regularly by a podiatrist to help prevent any complications such as ulceration and infection.
Tips for patients with diabetes
1) always get your nails cut by a podiatrist. Incorrect cutting can cause ulceration and infection
2) always test bath water with your elbow to prevent burns/scolds
3) check the inside of your shoes daily for any debris which could rub or cause any problems
4) ensure all footwear fits correctly to avoid blisters and to give your feet suitable support
5) have your feet checked every 3 months (minimum) by a podiatrist
6) moisturise your feet daily with a diabetic friendly cream (we have some available to buy at the clinic)
7) check feet daily for any wounds, redness, skin peeling, swelling.
And remember – always see your podiatrist if you have any concerns