Living with diabetic feet
There are a number of less commonly discussed issues that are not as severe, but can disrupt the everyday life of diabetics.
Podiatrist Amor Forde, who in acknowledging that diabetes was a major health crisis in Barbados, said each year the statistics showed an increase in the number of diagnosed people living with diabetes.
“There is still a large number of persons who are undiagnosed, and all persons living with diabetes have feet that are at risk of injury, therefore more prone to limb-threatening events leading to amputation,” she told Better Health magazine.
“Peripheral neuropathy is the altered sensation or numbness diabetics can get in their hands and feet. This is caused by excess sugar in the body damaging the nerves. Peripheral neuropathy affects most diabetics to varying degrees. Burning or tingling is the most common symptom of peripheral nerve damage.
“This discomfort can escalate to actual pain, which can be debilitating and cause disruptions to sleep and other daily activities. These symptoms have been linked to blood sugar levels and are usually worse in persons living with uncontrolled diabetes. People often note that lowering their blood sugar level improves symptoms,” Forde said.
She also said such people will experience difficulty in driving.
“Research has shown that persons living with neuropathy are more likely to be involved in vehicular accidents compared to persons who do not have nerve damage. This is due to an inability to efficiently control the foot pedals in the vehicle and is compounded by delayed reaction times.
In this study, neuropathics were more likely to report their foot being caught between the pedals or pressing the wrong pedal occasionally while driving. This is dangerous to both themselves and other road users,” the registered podiatrist with the Health and Care Professions Council revealed.
Forde said too, that while the change in foot shape occurs in adults, for diabetics this can be harmful.
“Diabetics commonly develop a lower arch and lose flexibility in the small joints of their feet. This leads to more stiff and flatter feet. Additionally, the toes can become retracted and develop a clawed or hammered position. All of these foot changes can alter how the person’s weight is distributed on the soles of their feet, which predisposes to corns and calluses.
“These changes can also make sizing and fitting footwear difficult and persons are more likely to get injuries from rubbing on the bony prominences of their feet. For example, on the tops of the toes or on the big toe joint,” shared Forde, who is also a member of the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists in the United Kingdom.
The foot care specialist added that cracked heels was also a source of danger for diabetics.
“Nerve impairment can lead to dry skin. The skin on the soles of our feet is thicker than anywhere else on the body. It is therefore more likely to get dry and requires moisturisers to help nourish the skin. Skin that is left dry for an extended time can crack. Therefore, many diabetics have cracks on the soles of their feet or around their heels.
“If left untreated, these cracks can get worse and become a portal of entry for bacteria and can lead to infection. To avoid this, people should wash and dry their feet after baths and then apply cream to their feet, including the soles, but not between the toes,” she cautioned.
This article is brought to you by Better Health Magazine.