Having diabetes is not necessarily going to always cause serious foot complications like ulcers or amputations. With a little knowledge, and a few changes to your behaviours, you can do many positive things to avoid these troublesome complications. Here’s a Top 5 ways to avoid diabetic foot complications.
1. Look after your blood glucose control.
The worse your overall diabetes control is, the more chance you have of developing end-stage complications that can not only affect your feet – but also your eyes, kidneys and other locations. If you have diabetes, make sure you have your own blood glucose monitoring machine. Be an active participant in your management alongside your GP or diabetes specialist. Seek assistance from a diabetes educator to learn more about ways to manage your diabetes. Diet and exercise is always the cornerstone of diabetes management – particularly if you have Type 2 diabetes.
2. Stop smoking
It goes without saying these days that smoking is not good for your cardiovascular health. If you have diabetes, then continuing to smoke will make you even more vunerable to blockages in the arteries around your heart, but also in the arteries that carry blood flow down your leg and into the foot. If no blood can get into the foot, then it may not always be possible to have stents or bypasses to restore flow, and this can increase the risk of amputation of the foot or leg.
3. Avoid self treatment of simple foot issues.
If you have a corn or an ingrown toenail, please don’t be tempted to treat this yourself. Our podiatrists have had seen countless examples of seeing the effects of well-intentioned, but ultimately risky self treatment of these problems in the context of diabetes. There is a much greater risk of infections and skin breakdowns, so it is much wiser to have these issues treated by your podiatrist using the correct techniques and sterile instruments.
4. See your podiatrist at least annually for a diabetic foot complications check
As part of your annual cycle of care, your GP will probably recommend you see a podiatrist for a complications review. This way we can examine your nerve function and circulation to stay ahead of any potential problems. During your consultation, your podiatrist will also check for any functional issues with the way your foot works that might lead to areas of high pressure and injury over time. Under an Enhanced Primary Care Plan, your GP may be able to refer you under Medicare in order to receive a rebate for these visits.
5. If in doubt – get it checked!
Check your feet daily. Any unusual appearance to the skin of the foot – such as redness, swelling or darkening – may be suggestive of an acute diabetic foot issue. Often, and especially when nerve damage is present, this can be completely painless and tempting to ignore. If you suspect something out of the ordinary then see your podiatrist or GP immediately to have it checked out properly. Sometimes it may be nothing to worry about, other times some simple treatment early can avoid far more serious problems down the track. If it turns out to be nothing to worry about, then we are much happier for this to be the case than if a simple issue gets out of hand and you end up in hospital with far more serious complications.