Nine lower leg amputations are performed each day in Australia due to complications associated with diabetes.
This staggering statistic is largely preventable by reducing your risk to diabetes through a fit and healthy lifestyle and by looking after your feet.
Looking after your diabetes and having regular checks will help to delay or even prevent the development of diabetes complications, including problems with your feet.
What is checked?
1. Blood flow to the feet (circulation)
2. Feeling and reflexes (nerves)
3. Foot shape
5. Skin - for dryness, calluses, corns, cracks or infections
A doctor, podiatrist or nurse will carry out this easy and painless check on your bare feet to assess whether your feet have a LOW or HIGH risk of developing more serious problems.
How do you know if you have LOW risk feet?
Low risk feet have normal sensation and good blood flow.
How do you know if you have HIGH risk feet?
High risk feet have lost feeling (peripheral neuropathy) and poor blood flow(peripheral vascular disease). People who have had a foot ulcer or amputation in the past have high risk feet. Feet with calluses or deformities like claw toes also have increased risk if poor feeling and/or decreased blood flow are also present.
As well as following the tips for foot care below, people with HIGH risk feet must take special care to avoid further problems. They are advised to see a podiatrist with sound diabetes knowledge and in some cases may be referred to a specialist or high risk foot clinic.
Caring for your feet
1. Attend education groups at a podiatry or diabetes centre to find out how to look after your feet
2. Have your feet checked twice a year by your doctor or diabetes health professional.
3. Know your feet well - wash, dry and look at your feet every day.
4. Get medical advice early if you notice any change or problem.
5. Cut your toenails straight across - not into the corners - and gently file any sharp edges.
6. If you can't properly see or reach your feet to cut your toenails, ask someone to do it for you.
7. Use moisturisers to avoid dry skin.
8. Never use over-the-counter corn cures.
9. Don't wear tight socks or stockings.
10. Buy supportive shoes that fit well - the right length (a thumb width longer than your longest toe), width and depth.
11. Keep your feet away from direct heat such as heaters, hot water bottles and electric blankets.
Keeping your diabetes under control
It is important to:
1. Check and record your blood glucose levels regularly
2. Keep your blood glucose levels within the recommended range (usually 4-8mm ol/L).
3. Be physically active.
4. Eat healthily.
5. DO NOT SMOKE!
6. Check with your doctor or podiatrist before embarking on any form of weight bearing activity.
Points to remember:
Low risk feet can become high risk feet without symptoms.
Knowing the risk and taking care of your feet prevents amputation.
It is important to have a professional foot check at least once a year.