It's especially important to look after your feet if you have diabetes. Here's how to take care of your feet and advice on when to get professional help.
Diabetes may affect your feet in a number of ways. When buying new shoes, get your feet measured. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes then it is possible that you could develop complications in your feet.
One of the first ways in which diabetes may affect your feet is through the loss of sensation within your feet, often starting at the toes. You may experience numbness in your feet, this is called neuropathy. Your chances of losing feeling in your feet increases with the number of years that you have diabetes and research suggests that up to one in three people with diabetes have some loss of sensation (called neuropathy). The onset of neuropathy is gradual and often people who develop this complication are unaware of it at the start. Often it occurs between 7 and 10 years of having diabetes, although in some cases it can occur sooner where blood sugar levels have not been so well controlled.
If you have lost feeling in your feet then it is possible that you may unknowingly damage your feet. You may stand on sharp objects, piercing the skin even down to the bone without realising it. If not noticed and not treated appropriately this can have potentially serious consequences and could lead to an amputation. Such an outcome is less likely if you seek expert advice from your multi-disciplinary foot team.
Your podiatrist will check your ability to feel pressures on the soles of your feet and toes every year. If you are forewarned that you have lost or are losing feeling then you will be able to reduce the risk of problems occurring by undertaking daily inspections of your feet and taking precautions such as not walking bare foot.
Occasionally people with loss of feeling can sense a burning pain in their feet. This can be severe and worse at night. Contact from socks and shoes can also cause discomfort. This is called painful peripheral neuropathy. If you experience these symptoms it is advisable to consult your Diabetic Clinic or Podiatrist, since it is possible in many cases to alleviate the symptoms. Diabetes can also affect blood supply to and within your feet; this can delay healing and increase your risks of infection. Because the implications of poor blood supply can have serious consequences for your feet, your podiatrist will routinely screen your feet for signs of poor blood flow. If necessary you may be referred on to a Vascular Surgeon.