Foot problems are a common complication of diabetes with an estimated 4400 diabetes-related amputations occuring in Australia each year.
The information on this page has been compiled to help you take care of your foot health. We also have a long-term association with Hanes for socks that are recommended for people with diabetes.
There are two main ways that diabetes can affect your feet.
Firstly your blood supply changes and may not be as strong, which means that cuts and sores may not heal very quickly. Secondly you may lose some feeling in your feet due to nerve damage. This means you may not be able to feel if you are injured. This combination can mean that problems are not noticed and dealt with and may lead to serious issues.
Tips for daily foot care
Smoking, high blood fats and raised blood glucose levels can cause hardening or narrowing of your arteries as they become clogged up. The first sign is usually pain or cramps in the backs of your legs when walking.
Your nerve supply
Nerves are the 'wiring' of your body, carrying feelings to your brain from the rest of your body. The nerves to your feet are the most likely to be affected by diabetes. Damaged nerves (neuropathy) can cause a range of sensations including painful, numb or insensitive feet. Some people with neuropathy experience uncomfortable sensations, such as burning, tingling and pain. This is often worse at night. Ulcers may occur when injuries to the feet are left untreated.
Essential foot care for diabetes
All people with diabetes should have their feet checked at least annually by a doctor or podiatrist to detect problems early and prevent ulcers. If you have circulation problems or damage to the nerves (neuropathy), you need to take special care of your feet.
How to avoid injury
This advice is essential for people who have developed problems with the circulation or feeling in the legs or feet.
- Check your feet for areas of swelling, redness or injury by looking at them at least once a day. You need to look underneath your feet, and between your toes. You may need a mirror to help you do this.
- Never go barefoot.
- Wear appropriate and well-fitting shoes to protect your feet (e.g. sandals (not open-toed ones) for the beach, closed-in shoes for gardening or maintenance, sports shoes for exercise).
- Check inside your shoes for objects or folded lining before putting them on.
- Wear well-fitting socks. Avoid tight elastic tops and seams that may rub.
- Cut toenails along the shape of the toe avoid cutting down the side. Cut nails when soft after bathing.
- If you can't easily see or reach your feet, or if toenails are thick or ingrown, a podiatrist should cut your toenails.
- See a podiatrist to treat corns and calluses.
- Wear bed socks for cold feet rather than using a hot water bottle.
- Be very careful not to put feet too close to radiant heaters wrap your legs and feet in a warm blanket instead.
- Check bath water with your elbow before plunging feet in to ensure it’s not too hot.
Taking care of foot health
Visit the National Health Services Directory to find a podiatrist that is close to you.
The Baker Institute has a long-term association with Hanes Australasia which markets circulation socks under the Bonds, Holeproof and Jockey brands. A percentage of sales from these products helps support important heart and diabetes research at the Institute.