I have Diabetes, but why do I need to see a podiatrist?
Diabetes rates are rising! and if you have it, it is nothing to be
ashamed of. It is however something that should definitely not be ignored as early lifestyle changes and early treatment can be crucial to avoiding complications later down the track.
Firstly, what is it ?
Diabetes is a disease that causes your blood glucose a.k.a blood sugar levels to be unregulated and can cause them to rise too high.
Glucose is our main source of energy and comes from the food we eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas allows the body to use the glucose that we eat for energy. When a person has diabetes their body either doesn’t make enough insulin, doesn’t make any insulin at all or doesn’t use the insulin that is being produced.
This then causes the glucose a.k.a ‘sugar’ to stay in the blood as it doesn’t reach the body’s cells.
You may have heard that there are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Although very similar in their presentation and potential effect on health, there is a difference.
Type 1 diabetes (insulin dependant): Type 1 diabetes Is an auto-immune disorder that can not be avoided. If you have type 1 diabetes, your body does not make any insulin. With type 1 diabetes the immune system attacks and destroys the important cells in your pancreas that make insulin. This condition is usually diagnosed in children and young adults and the individual once diagnosed must rely on regular insulin injections to regulate blood sugar levels.
Type 2 diabetes: With type 2 diabetes the mechanism is a little less clear cut compared with type 1. When you have type 2 diabetes your body is either not making enough insulin or the insulin that is being made is just not being used by the body’s cells for glucose uptake or it can be a combination of both. A poor diet, in-activity, family history, ethnicity and overweightness are just some of the proven risk factors for the development of type 2 diabetes. Immediate treatment for type 2 diabetes varies between cases and some may require daily medication where others may not. However checks by health care professionals is required to determine the treatment plan.
How can diabetes affect my feet?
Some people who have diabetes will not run into any serious complications. However diabetes can have a large effect on your overall health, especially if left uncontrolled and mismanaged. The complications that can occur in the feet due to diabetes/unregulated blood sugar levels are:
Micro/macrovascular disease: The small blood vessels (capillaries) and the large blood vessels (arteries) in the legs and feet can be damaged by the blood glucose changes occuring in the body. This leads to poor blood supply which leaves the individual with poor healing ability and a higher risk of infection, it can also lead to fatiguing and pain in the leg muscles.
Neurological complications: Similar to the blood vessels, the nerves of the feet and lower legs can become affected and/or damaged with diabetes. This can lead to neuropathy (loss of sensation/feeling of the feet). This causes an increased risk of injury as a person with neuropathy may not feel a knock, pressure or friction that occurs at the feet.
These are the complications that can arise that are most specific to podiatry however there are many other possible complications from diabetes non-specific to podiatry that can occur too, such as changes in eye-sight or kidney disease.
What can be done and what should I do ?
A person with type 1 or type 2 diabetes diabetes should be checking their blood sugar levels daily and having regular checks with multiple health care professionals such as the GP, dietician, exercise physiologist and podiatrist. This will provide the individual with a long term management plan and thorough education about what needs to be done to give them their best possible chance to be on top of their health, regulate blood sugar levels and avoid serious complications such as the ones explained earlier.
A person that is diagnosed with diabetes should be seeing a podiatrist at least once a year for an annual diabetic foot check. A diabetic foot check will involve multiple foot health tests and assessments using specialised equipment that will indicate if any vascular or neurological changes have occurred at the feet and lower leg. The podiatrist can then place the individual at either a low, medium or high risk status of developing complications and come up with a suitable plan. If changes have occurred with an individual’s foot health testing and this may indicate a change to diet, exercise or a medication may be necessary for treatment.
If a person with diabetes whether it be type 1 or type 2 is on top of their health, regularly monitoring their blood sugar levels, is seeing their health care providers regularly and reporting any changes they notice then they give themselves every chance to avoid complications and living a long happy and healthy life.
Have diabetes, see one of our Podiatrists. Make an appointment by calling one of our clinics at Burnside (08 833 2022), Fullarton (08 8333 2022) or Woodville (08 8445 8680 ) or Click Here to book online.