Preventing Diabetic Foot Ulcers
People with diabetes have to take special care of their feet.
Lower limb ulcers have a significant impact on health and quality of life, they can be painful, restrict mobility and lead to depression, anxiety and hostility for many sufferers. They are often characterised by prolonged healing times and frequently recur.
Diabetes is on the Rise
In Australia, 1.7 million people have diabetes. 280 Australians develop diabetes every day, that’s one person every five minutes. More than 100,000 Australians have developed diabetes in the past year alone (Source). For every person diagnosed with diabetes, there is usually a family member or carer who also lives with diabetes every day in a support role. This means that 2.4 million Australian’s are affected by diabetes every day. The total cost of diabetes in Australia is estimated at $14.6 billion every year (Source).
These alarming statistics highlight the urgent need for governments to prioritise policies that improve evidence-based care for people with diabetes.
Globally, diabetes-related foot disease (DFD) is recognised as the leading cause of diabetes-related hospitalisations and amputation and has mortality rates that are comparable to many cancers. In fact, diabetic foot disease is the leading cause of all doctors visits and hospital admissions.
The Cause of Diabetic Foot Problems
People with diabetes are older, have a lower body mass index, longer duration of diabetes, had hypertension, diabetic retinopathy and smoking history compared to people without diabetes. Diabetes poses a significant burden on an individual’s quality of life, major risks to their morbidity and mortality and increases their healthcare costs.
The significance of the complications faced by people with diabetes is emphasised by the fact that someone in the world dies from diabetes-related complications every seven seconds and is the leading cause of kidney failure and lower limb amputations globally.
Diabetes is one of the most significant public health challenges Australia has ever faced.
The best way to protect yourself against infection and a diabetic foot ulcer is prevention. Along with a yearly, comprehensive foot exam with your GP, here are some additional ways to protect your feet:
- Regular inspection and examination. Every day, examine your legs as well as the tops and bottoms of your feet and the areas between your toes. Look for any blisters, cuts, cracks, scratches or other sores. Always inspect your feet, even if it means having someone help you. Report any changes right away.
- Wash your feet every day. Be sure to test the
temperature of water first to make sure it’s not too hot and always make sure
to thoroughly dry your feet and between your toes.
- Dry your feet well. Gently and thoroughly dry your skin and feet, including between the toes. Do not rub your skin or area between the toes
- Keep the skin soft with moisturizing lotion, but avoid putting it between your toes.
- Always wear clean, dry socks. Wear socks that fit
properly and that aren’t too tight. This can help avoid blisters from footwear
- Make sure your shoes fit well. Consider getting your
footwear specially fitted to ensure the correct fit.
- Never walk barefoot. This goes for both indoor and outdoor settings. Going barefoot can lead to injury. Try and avoid it with a proper fitting pair of shoes.
- Check your shoes! It’s easy for rocks or stones to get into your shoes. Make sure you check inside your shoes before putting them on to prevent hurting your feet. If you do happen to injure your foot, let your healthcare provider know right away.
Know the signs of at-risk feet
Even if you follow the best prevention methods – and take care of your feet – you can still find yourself having at-risk feet. One of the most common misconceptions about diabetic foot issues is that if you ignore it, it will go away. Being at-risk does not mean it’s too late. And just because you aren’t at-risk now, doesn’t mean that it’s too early to take action. It’s important to know the signs of at-risk feet so you can know when immediate actions need to be taken. Stay on top of your foot health and look for these at-risk signs:
- Neuropathy (lack of sensation or feeling in the feet)
- Deformity of the foot
- History of foot ulceration
- Absent or diminished pulses
Have a specialist diabetes care team
Whether you have diabetic foot problems currently, or want to reduce your risk, the most important step you can take is
finding the right care team to help. A specialist diabetes care team usually includes a podiatrist, wound specialist, diabetic educator, and your GP so that they can provide a more thorough assessment and treatment and prevention strategies.
Warning signs include:
- Bleeding from callouses
- Callouses that are changing colour
- Changes in skin temperature
- Skin cracking, especially around the heel
- Ingrown toenails
- Skin discolouring
- Presence of a wound
- Changes in sensation or pain
Schedule yearly appointments with your GP and continue to do daily self-checks. If you are currently experiencing diabetic foot problems, visit your GP or podiatrist every 3 – 6 months. If you detect an issue, call your specialist diabetes care team immediately.
Wound Specialist Services can work with your diabetes care team
Missing a wound care expert on your diabetes care team? Then Wound Specialist Services has extensive experience in the specialist area of diabetic foot ulceration and can work with your diabetes care team to guide treatment and prevention strategies.