Diabetes is the result of the body not making enough insulin to keep blood glucose (sugar) levels within the normal range. If the glucose in a person’s blood is too high, over time it can lead to damage of multiple body systems, including the feet.
There are three main types of diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes: is a chronic condition where the pancreas produces little or no insulin, a hormone needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells to make energy for the body.
Type 2 diabetes: (adult-onset or noninsulin-dependent diabetes) is a chronic condition that affects the way your body metabolises sugar (glucose), an important source of fuel for the body.
Gestational diabetes: is a condition where women, without previously diagnosed diabetes, show high blood glucose (blood sugar) levels during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is caused by faulty insulin responses.
The effect of diabetes on the feet
Some people with diabetes develop complications due to their diabetes. Two of the common foot related complications of diabetes are:
- Damage to nerves (neuropathy)
- Damage to blood vessels (vascular disease)
People with diabetes sometimes develop nerve damage to their feet which may result in either whole or part of their feet becoming numb and insensitive to pain or injury.
If you have diabetic neuropathy in your feet you are:
More likely to get an injury AND less likely to know to get help for the injury early on.
Diabetic Vascular Disease
Diabetes can cause the lining of blood vessels to become thickened meaning that less blood is able to travel through the blood vessels.
If the blood vessels to your feet are partially or completely blocked the skin and soft tissue of your feet will struggle to maintain a healthy condition.
If you have diabetic vascular disease in your feet you are:
Less able to fight off infection AND less likely for tissues to heal quickly once damaged.
In serious cases there is an increased risk of developing gangrene, especially in the toes, if the blood supply to the feet is dramatically reduced or non-existent.
When nerve damage and poor blood supply both exist, feet are especially at risk.
In this situation, there is an increased risk of foot injury (because you cannot feel pain), AND injury is more likely to be slow to heal, become infected, ulcerated and possibly gangrene could develop (because the blood supply is so poor or non-existent).
Every diabetic needs to take good care of their feet
Even if you currently have no nerve or blood vessel damage you need to take good care of your feet.
Foot Care TIPS:
Wash and carefully dry your feet, including between your toes, every day.
Moisturise your feet every day, but not between toes.
Wear well-fitting and sensible shoes that are suitable for your activity. Avoid seams and materials that could cause injury. Your podiatrist can give you advice on choosing suitable shoes.
Look at your feet, both top and bottom, every day to make sure they look healthy. Report any changes immediately to your podiatrist or doctor.
Have regular foot checks by your doctor, foot specialist or diabetes nurse educator. These checks should pick up any developing numbness or signs of poor circulation.
If you have nerve or blood vessel damage to your feet you also need to:
- Carefully examine your feet every day. Look for redness, hard skin, splits, swelling, bruising, rubbing or blisters. Get help if you can’t see your feet. Get advice immediately from your doctor or podiatrist if you notice anything.
- If the feeling in your feet is reduced, it is a good idea to get someone who is properly trained (i.e. a podiatrist) to cut your toenails for you.
- Gently wash and thoroughly dry your feet every day. Get help if you can’t reach your feet.
- Make an appointment with a podiatrist. Take any shoes you commonly wear to this appointment for the podiatrist to assess.
- Before wearing any new shoes ask your podiatrist to check that they are safe for your feet.
- Always check inside your shoes before putting them on to make sure there are no rough edges or objects inside them.
- Don’t go barefoot anywhere, even inside, at home.
- Wear well fitting, seam free socks. Seams can cause pressure areas on your feet that can result in blisters or ulcers. Diabetic specific socks are readily available.
- Ask your podiatrist to assess and fit Formthotics Medical Original ShockStop orthotic into your shoe.
Formthotics can help feet at risk due to diabetes
Formthotics™, in particular Shockstop Formthotics™, are designed to absorb shock, deflect impact and reduce plantar pressures while supporting the structure of your feet.
The cushioning and support provided by Shockstop Formthotics reduce plantar pressures and sheer forces, reducing the risk of tissue break down and ulceration in diabetics. Shockstop Formthotics are heat mouldable and fully customisable which means that your podiatrist or health care professional is able to ensure the best solution for your feet.
ShockStop material is a totally unique and revolutionary hybrid EVA polymer foam. The top layer deflects impact significantly more than other standard foam materials, while the base maintains support and stability.
For further information:
LifeSocks therapeutic socks are made from Merino Wool and SeaCell to help treat, prevent and reduce the of risk foot injury.
They deliver preventative and protective features including
- Outstanding insulating abilities
- Moisture management and temperature control
- Antimicrobial and antifungal
- Anti-inflammatory and hypo-allergenic
- Odor resistant
- Superior softness and comfort
LifeSocks are currently only distributed in New Zealand by Foot Science International.