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Happy feet for people with diabetes

22 July, 2019
A man walking

When it comes to taking care of yourself, your feet may be literally the furthest thing from your mind, but they are simply too important to overlook. Containing 26 bones (1/4 of the bones in your body), a complex framework of 33 joints, and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments, your feet are continually absorbing the impact of your body weight and are regularly subjected to pressure on the skin.

Regular TLC is important in maintaining good healthy feet, but when you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, extra special care is needed. Foot problems are a common complication associated with diabetes, as the disease can damage nerves in the feet. With reduced feeling in the feet, they can be accidentally injured more easily and you may not notice a sore or infection that needs treated. People with difficulty controlling their blood glucose levels may also experience poor blood supply to the feet, which increases infection risk.

Diabetes Australia state there are are more than 4,400 amputations every year in Australia as a result of type 2 diabetes. In fact, foot issues often arise even before you’re aware you have diabetes. At the time of diagnosis, up to 48% of people already have impaired foot sensitivity, an early indicator of the potential for serious foot conditions and even amputations.

How to take care of your feet

Regular checks by an expert: If you have diabetes, you’ll probably have a few different health checks to attend each year. Your podiatrist is one to add to the list. If your feet are classed as high risk, you may even need to see a podiatrist every 3-6 months. Your diabetes health care team will be able to advise you on how often to go.

Know your feet well: Familiarise yourself with your feet so you can identify any changes immediately. If you struggle with this, get a loved one to help. Wash, dry and check your feet every day, being sure to look for signs of redness, bruising, swelling, cuts, discharge, splinters and blisters. It’s especially important to check between toes, around heels and nail edges, and the soles of your feet.

Cut your toenails straight: When cutting your toenails, take special care not to cut into the corners. Instead, cut nails straight across and use a nail file to gently file away sharp edges. This will help avoid nasty ingrown toenails.

Moisturise: Keep feet hydrated by applying moisturiser daily, but not between the toes. This will help keep the skin from dryness and cracking.

Don’t treat corns or callouses yourself: Over-the-counter treatments aren’t recommended for people with diabetes. See your doctor or podiatrist if you notice any corns or callouses on your feet.

Choose socks, stockings and shoes with care: Each day, wear clean, hole-free socks or stockings without rough seams. Select shoes which fit well and aren’t too tight, with no pinch points. Avoid shoes which have open toes or are narrow at the toes. Your shoes should offer a thumb width between your longest toe and the top of the shoe.

Keep feet safe from direct heat: Take care with direct heat such as open fires, heaters, bathwater or hot water bottles. Be sure to wear sunscreen on the tops of your feet if they’re exposed. It’s also recommended to not go barefoot outside.  

Seek medical attention with any changes: If you notice any changes in your feet, visit your doctor or podiatrist as early as possible.

We offer Better Living programs for people with diabetes or those at-risk. These one-on-one tailored programs provide you with expert guidance and support for your health challenges.

CBHS Better Living programs are FREE for members on an eligible CBHS Hospital or Package cover. To learn more, call us on 02 9685 7567 or email wellness@cbhs.com.au

All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified Health Care Professional.

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