Currently 280 Australians develop diabetes every day (one person every 5 minutes). Due to the associated circulation, neuropathic problems, glycolisation of muscles and ligaments many people will develop foot ulcers, pressure wounds and diabetic foot deformity. These are serious complications and frequently result in amputations.
In Australia, around 4,400 amputations occur and more than 1,700 people die from diabetic foot ulcers and lower leg wounds every year, according to Diabetes Australia.
Podiatrists play a critical role in preventing and managing diabetic foot conditions. At Erica Dash Podiatry, we have the tools to identify and analyse pressure points, to monitor neuropathy levels and blood supply and provide effective solutions for diabetic foot conditions.
If you have diabetes then you should visit a podiatrist at least once a year as part of your ongoing diabetes management programme. Imagine how much harder your blood sugar management would be if you are unable to use your feet!
Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease where the hormone insulin is no longer able to manage the sugar (glucose) levels in your body. There are two types of diabetes, commonly referred to as type 1 or type 2, both types can cause peripheral vascular disease, peripheral neuropathy, skin changes and other diabetic foot complications which can contribute to a diabetic foot ulcer.
The reduced blood flow slows healing, and the damaged nerves increase the chance of injuries and wounds worsening because you’ve lost feeling in your feet. The lack of nerve sensation can weaken the foot bones and lead to a fracture even without any obvious trauma.
The absence of pain signals leads the diabetic patient to continue to walk on their feet causing additional damage. This can result in significant foot deformity and is known as Charcot’s Arthropathy. If left untreated the foot will become prone to serious diabetic foot infections and diabetic foot ulcers that may result in amputation.
Typically, a patient will have been diabetic for quite some time before diabetic foot complications present. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, you should begin monitoring for diabetic foot disease immediately because prevention is by far the best cure.
Diabetics with foot problems usually display the following symptoms:
- Diminished nerve sensation—pain and injuries go unnoticed
- Poor circulation marked by very slow healing processes
- Pain and cramps in the feet and lower legs
- Burning, aching, numbness or tingling (especially at night)
- Inability to feel hot or cold in the feet (the heat receptors diminish first)
- Poor balance and inability to hold foot position
- More frequent infections such as tinea and cellulitis
- Appearance of foot ulcers and other foot complications
- The flattening of the foot, or developing a high arch due to nerve changes and glocalisation of muscles or even the development of a Charcot Joint.
Diabetic foot ulceration (or having holes in your feet) is a serious problem. The body’s reduced ability to heal itself, means that the ulcers can grow to a dangerous size along with the growing vulnerability to infection.
These large foot ulcers can quickly eat through to the bone and turn gangrenous. If this happens, doctors will have no choice but to amputate the foot.
The kidneys may not function as well in a diabetic patient and this reduces the body’s ability to fight infections and can cause the feet to become hot, sweaty and swollen with fluid (oedema). Many diabetic patients suffer from very dry skin as well.
Prevention and management are the key pillars of treatment for diabetic foot problems.
As a diabetic patient you should:
- Monitor your insulin levels
- Thoroughly wash, dry and inspect your feet daily
- Apply moisturiser to your feet daily (we recommend Walker’s Urea 15 or 25)
- Inspect the linings of your footwear to ensure there are no seams or broken linings that will rub and create pressure
- Maintain a good diet and exercise regularly
- Wear well fitted, comfortable footwear
- Give up smoking and reduce alcohol intake
If you are at high risk of diabetic foot ulcers and other complications then you should visit your podiatrist every 6 – 8 weeks. A 6 monthly visit is recommended for moderately at risk diabetics; and an annual visit to your podiatrist is sufficient for low risk patients.
Your podiatrist can help prevent damage by ensuring there are no pressure points in your footwear. Removable foam pads and custom orthotics can help ensure your feet are comfortable and well supported. Erica Dash Podiatry stocks a wide range of comfortable medical grade footwear.
Our team are trained in correctly measuring your feet for Dr Comfort, Anodyne, Revere and Vionic Brands.
The podiatrists at Erica Dash Podiatry will also monitor your circulation and nerve health and cut your nails safely. Remember, a poorly cut nail can cause severe hard-to-heal damage to a diabetic foot so let the professionals look after your feet.
Podiatrists at Erica Dash Recommend
Check your feet daily. Diabetes Australia recommends that if you detect any of the following you should get medical treatment the same day:
- Ulcer or blister
- Unusual swelling or redness
- Ingrown nail
- Bruising or cuts
If you notice lesser damage such as cracked skin, you should see your podiatrist within 7 days.
We use shockwave therapy for treating slow healing foot ulcers because of its well-known effectiveness. And we also have a range of Cam Walkers for supporting the healing of fragile bones (due to Charcot’s Arthropathy).
Make Erica Dash Podiatry part of your commitment to better foot and health care. Call us today if you are experiencing any diabetic foot issues.
Shockwave is a great alternative to treatments such as dry needling if you’re needle phobic and not keen on dry needling. We also have effective treatment offers for kids.