Diabetes and your feet: every day ways to keep diabetic feet healthy

In 2024, almost 10% of Canadians are living with a diagnosis of diabetes, a total of 3.7million people. That’s an increase on the 2.3million identified in 2020 by the Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System.

Most of these 3.7million (up to 95%) have Type 2 diabetes, with the remaining having either non-preventable Type 1 or temporary gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

In addition, between 2007 and 2019 it was estimated that 1.9% of Canadians had undiagnosed diabetes and 22.5% of those who met the diabetes criteria were totally unaware of their condition.

Diabetes can cause serious complications including foot ulcers and infections leading to potential lower limb amputations. Up to 24% of diabetics are at risk of developing a foot ulcer that will result in the amputation of a foot or leg. Indeed, Diabetes Canada states that:

“Lower extremity complications are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in people with diabetes.”

That’s quite a scary statistic to read, whether you’ve just been diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, are pre-diabetic, or have lived with diabetes for years.

Diabetes and footcare

People with diabetes need to take particular care of their feet. The nerve damage caused by diabetes means that diabetics are less likely to feel any injury to their feet, which in turn makes them more prone to infections until they become serious.

At Hunt Footcare, we can help with practical advice for diabetics of all ages, to help keep their feet as healthy as possible. Call us if you’ve been diagnosed and book an appointment with our team today.

What is diabetes?

According to Diabetes Canada:

“Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body does not effectively use the insulin that is produced. Prediabetes refers to blood sugar levels that are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes (i.e. a fasting plasma glucose level of 7.0 mmol/L or A1C of 6.5% or higher).

The good news about Type 2 diabetes

Many people with Type 2 diabetes develop it due to their lifestyle and diet. The good news is that Type 2 is therefore potentially preventable and in many people can be reversed with lifestyle modifications. These might including losing weight, giving up smoking, changing to a more healthy Mediterranean diet to lower your blood sugar levels, and taking more exercise.

As the Public Health Agency of Canada says:

“The adoption of a healthy lifestyle (i.e., regular physical activity, healthy eating, weight management, and being smoke-free) can help prevent or delay (Type 2) onset or complications.”

Even with lifestyle changes, it may take some considerable time to reverse a diabetes diagnosis. So until the time when your doctor says you are no longer diabetic or pre-diabetic, you should definitely take extra care of your feet!

How does diabetes affect my feet and legs?

Diabetes can cause nerve damage (diabetic peripheral neuropathy ) in your feet and legs. This nerve damage occurs in people who have had diabetes for a long time and who may not have managed their blood sugar levels well the past. As the Wounds Canada website explains, this neuropathy results in:

“The loss of the ability to feel the normal pain signals of an injury in the feet … It is not usually a total loss of feeling, but rather tingling or numbness.”

The result is that you are far less likely to notice minor foot injuries such as blisters, cuts, scratches, bruising, or sore spots caused by rubbing footwear. As these kind of injuries can quickly become infected, this can lead to more serious complications if not treated in time.

Diabetics also can suffer from poor blood flow and /or circulation (peripheral arterial disease) in their feet and legs. This is a result of changes in their blood vessels due to the diabetes. Again, as Wounds Canada explains:

“Without good blood flow, wounds can take a long time to heal and may even stop healing altogether, both of which can lead to very serious health problems.”

The same applies to foot conditions such as:

  • Corns
  • Calluses
  • Ingrown toenails
  • Warts
  • Splinters

In short, if you have diabetes, you need to look after your feet!

Expert footcare to help you

If you notice such injuries early on, they can usually be treated at a specialist foot clinic such as the team at Hunt Footcare. You don’t always have to go to your doctor As Diabetes Canada says:”Do not try to treat them yourself.” Call to make an appointment at any of our local feet clinics with one of our foot care specialists;

Taking care of your feet

Diabetes Canada suggest this simple 5-point daily plan to monitor and help keep your feet healthy:

– Examine your feet and legs daily

– Care for your nails regularly

– Apply moisturizing lotion if your feet are dry (but not between the toes)

– Wear properly fitting footwear (with minimal seams)

– Test your bath water with your hand before you step in, to make sure the water is not too hot

How hot are your feet?

You might like to check the temperature of your feet too, as the MyHealth.Alberta website suggests:

“Feel for differences in the temperature of your feet. Check to see if some areas are warmer or cooler than other areas. A change in temperature may alert you to early signs of inflammation or infection. To help check for this you can use a personal infrared thermometer.“

Free Daily Foot Exam Worksheet

Wounds Canada have produced a great downloadable Daily Foot Exam Worksheet to help you monitor your feet – you’ll find it on page 3 of this PDF.

Expert help with diabetic foot care

Struggling with managing your condition and foot care as well? Our experienced diabetes foot clinic staff can help with:

  • Preventative foot care maintenance
  • Treatment for skin lesions
  • Careful dressing and treatment of the skin
  • Ulcers and wound management
  • Off-loading devices such as custom orthotics
  • Specialist socks and hosiery

Contact your local foot care clinic today

Call us to make an appointment at one of our three local foot clinics in Ontario.

Published On: January 30, 2024