Tooronga Podiatry

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Australians will be diagnosed with Diabetes this year 

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Every two hours a person with diabetes has a lower limb removed as a direct result of diabetes-related foot disease

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of diabetes-related amputations are preventable with best practice treatment and on-going management

www.diabetesfeetaustralia.org

How does diabetes affect the nerves

One prevalent indication of diabetes involves the impairment of nerves in the feet. This compromised nerve function is referred to as neuropathy, and approximately half of individuals with diabetes experience some degree of nerve damage.

Neuropathy can manifest as pain, tingling, weakness, or diminished sensation in the feet and lower limbs. Reduced sensitivity in the feet can lead to an abnormal walking pattern, causing increased pressure in specific areas of the foot.

 

The formation of calluses may indicate abnormal pressure, and persistently walking in an unnatural manner on an ‘insensitive foot’ heightens the risk of ulcer formation while diminishing the body’s capacity to heal existing ulcers.


Due to the diminished sensation in the foot, individuals with diabetes may not promptly recognize foot injuries, as they do not experience pain. This lack of awareness makes it less likely for them to detect and address an injury promptly, allowing it to progress to a more severe stage.

A prevalent issue arising from these challenges is the diabetes-related foot ulcer, a wound occurring on the foot often caused by a lack of sensation and/or poor blood supply in individuals with diabetes.

How does diabetes affect the blood flow

Diabetes can significantly impact blood flow to the feet through a condition known as peripheral arterial disease (PAD). PAD is a common complication of diabetes that occurs when there is a buildup of fatty deposits (atherosclerosis) in the arteries, reducing blood flow to the extremities, including the feet.

  1. Atherosclerosis: Diabetes can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis, where blood vessels become narrowed and hardened due to the accumulation of plaques made up of cholesterol, fatty substances, and other cellular debris. This process restricts blood flow to the feet.

  2. Microvascular complications: Diabetes can also lead to damage of the smaller blood vessels, a condition known as microvascular disease. This affects the tiny blood vessels in the feet, impairing their ability to supply oxygen and nutrients to the tissues.

  3. Inflammation: Chronic inflammation associated with diabetes can exacerbate vascular damage, further contributing to impaired blood flow. Inflammatory processes can lead to additional narrowing of blood vessels.

  4. Neuropathy: Diabetes often causes peripheral neuropathy, damaging the nerves in the feet. This can lead to a loss of sensation, making individuals less aware of injuries or infections. Reduced sensation may also affect the ability of blood vessels to regulate blood flow properly.

  5. Compromised immune response: Diabetes can weaken the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight off infections. In the feet, reduced blood flow can impair the delivery of immune cells, slowing down the healing process.

Overall, these factors combined can result in poor circulation in the feet, increasing the risk of complications such as infections, delayed wound healing, and the development of foot ulcers. It underscores the importance of regular foot care, monitoring, and early intervention for individuals with diabetes to prevent and manage these issues effectively.

How to look after your feet day to day

diabetesfeetaustralia.org/for-patients/

What to do if you find a problem

Patients with diabetes, feet are frequently neglected as the focus tends to be on managing other aspects of the condition.

Despite this, foot problems are prevalent and can significantly impact the lives of those with diabetes. Dismissing changes in the feet and adopting a ‘wait-and-see’ approach for a few weeks may pose a risk to the well-being of your feet, exposing them to potential complications associated with diabetes. 

It’s crucial to prioritize foot care to prevent and address diabetes-related foot issues effectively.