By Wilma Bedford
Why is foot care so important to diabetics?
If you are diabetic it is important to give your feet special care. Unfortunately, according to the WHO, the fact is that South Africa, next to Nigeria, Ethiopia, the DRC and Tanzania, is regarded as one of the five African countries with the highest T2DM figure and that one out of five people with a Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes has a 15% chance to develop a foot infection and that 5% of patients with diabetic foot disease (DFD) will eventually have to have parts of the foot or even the upper leg amputated.
Diabetes impedes the blood circulation to the feet and the nerves in the feet are damaged, which causes patients to have less feeling in the feet and results in patients damaging their feet by wearing ill-fitting shoes or by abrasions and blisters caused by other objects without their feeling it. Damaged nerves in a foot and lower leg can lead to less sweating and this could lead to dry feet. Because diabetes is associated with an increased risk of infection, which can hamper the immune system’s ability to resist disease, it is advisable to avoid infection through foot wounds at all costs.
Diabetic foot disease develops in spots where the feet are always subjected to pressure and abrasion and repeated trauma. One characteristic of DFD is foot wounds that are difficult to heal and can cause serious foot infections and can also cause necrobiosis. Uncomfortable shoes that worsen pressure points on the feet are one of the precursors in the development of diabetic foot diseases and resultant amputation.
Diabetic feet can be recognised by the following symptoms and it would be advisable to get a medical opinion and help: there is less feeling in the feet, dull places on the feet or legs that are insensitive to temperature, cold, or tingling feet, a difference in the temperature of the two feet, red discoloration and swelling of the toes or feet, hard-to-heal wounds that developed on pressure points, fungus infections under the toe nails, discomfort at even the slightest touching of the skin, for instance clothes that chafe the legs or feet, and a burning sensation or shooting pains in the feet or legs.
The best treatment for foot problems is to prevent them. Most important is to check blood sugar levels regularly, but daily foot care is also of vital importance.
Take good care of your feet every day
Good foot care can prevent or lessen the chances of foot problems and amputation and must be part of the daily care. Take a five-minute foot bath every day in lukewarm water at 30–45 °C and wash with soap. It is important to closely monitor the water temperature because there could be a loss of feeling in the feet, which could make it difficult to estimate the temperature. Dry the feet thoroughly so that fungus infections cannot take hold. File the nails rather than using a nail clipper and retain the natural curve of the nail. Push back the cuticle at the top of the nail after the foot bath.
Check the feet and between the toes very day and look out for blisters and red spots and abrasions.
Prevent dry-out of the feet by rubbing in the feet with a medicinal foot ointment or even baby oil.
Prevent ingrowing toe nails.
Do not walk barefoot – not indoors either, to prevent infections and injuries.
Wear clean cotton socks every day.
With winter coming it is not advisable to warm cold feet on a heat source because it could cause blisters.
Move enough to stimulate blood circulation.
Visit a pedicurist who specialises in diabetic feet to have calluses and corns removed.
Visit a doctor or nurse at least once a year to check blood circulation and nerve damage.
Leonardo da Vinci said: “The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art” – so, take good care of your feet.
World Health Organization
Awareness of diabetic foot disease amongst patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus attending the chronic outpatients department at a regional hospital in Durban, South Africa
Thea T. Goie, Mergan Naidoo
17 Nov. 2016