Diabetes and your feet Foot care and diabetes When you have diabetes, you need to take care of your feet every day. This is because diabetes can damage the nerves in your feet, leading to poor blood circulation and increasing your risk of serious complications like foot ulcers. In fact, amputations are 15 times more common in people with diabetes. This damage is more likely if: you’ve had diabetes for a long time your blood glucose levels have been high for a long time you smoke, which can cause reduced blood flow to your feet and wounds to heal slowly you’re not active. Self-checks You can check your feet every day at home. Get medical treatment that day if you see any of the following: ulcer unusual swelling redness blisters ingrown nail bruising or cuts. Get medical treatment within 7 days if you see any of the following: broken skin between toes callus corn foot shape changes cracked skin nail colour changes. For a thorough foot exam, see your doctor or podiatrist once a year to help reduce your risk of lower limb complications. Poor blood supply Blood glucose levels outside your target range over time can reduce the supply of blood to your feet and put you at greater risk of infection. Here are some signs of poor blood supply: sharp leg cramps after walking short distances or up stairs pain in your feet, even at rest or in the early hours of the morning feet feeling cold feel looking a reddish-blue colour cuts that are slow to heal. See your podiatrist, GP or diabetes educator if you have any of these symptoms. Professional checks Your GP, podiatrist or diabetes educator can do easy and painless checks to assess your feet. At your check-up, your doctor will look at: blood flow to your feet (circulation) feeling and reflexes (nerves) unusual foot shapes (bunions, claw toes, hammer toes) toenails dryness, calluses, corns, cracks or infections. If you have misshapen feet and nerve damage, you’re more likely to get: ulcers from too much pressure over some areas of the feet corns and calluses from too much pressure being put on one area. A podiatrist can remove calluses or corns before they become ulcers to prevent infection and amputation. Caring for your feet Here are our top tips for caring for your feet: Get your feet checked. See your GP or podiatrist at least once a year for a thorough foot exam. Know your feet well. Wash, dry and check your feet every day. Check for redness, swelling, cuts, pus discharge, splinters or blisters. Take care to look between toes, around heels and nail edges and at the soles of the feet. If you have difficulty with your vision, get someone to check for you. Cut your toenails straight across. Don’t cut into the corners. Gently file any sharp edges. Ask for help if you can’t see well or reach your feet. Moisturise. Do this daily to avoid dry skin. Never use over-the-counter corn cures. Ask your GP for advice instead. Cover your feet. Use a clean sock or stocking without rough seams. No tight socks or stockings. Protect your feet. Wear a shoe that fits well. Make sure it’s the right length – a thumb width longer than your longest toe – width and depth, and has been checked for stones, pins, bunions or anything else which could cause injury. Stay cool. Keep your feet away from direct heat such as heaters, hot water bottles and electric blankets. Get medical advice early. If you notice any changes or problems, see your GP. What happens if I have an injury? If you find a cut, blister, sore, red area or open crack, you should immediately: wash and dry the area apply a good antiseptic such as Betadine, then cover with a sterile dressing, available from pharmacies. If the injury doesn’t improve within 24 hours, make an urgent appointment to see your doctor. It could help you avoid serious complications. Get urgent medical care for even the mildest foot infection, including: any sore an open wound or crack which is oozing and contains pus any type of discharge that doesn’t heal within a week. Rebates Medicare may provide a rebate on podiatrists’ fees if you have a chronic condition and are referred by your doctor. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) Gold Card holders are entitled to free podiatry services from private podiatrists. Private health funds cover some podiatry services. Where can I learn more? Foot Forward Foot Forward is a National Diabetes Services Scheme program which provides information, education, support, resources and activities for both people with diabetes and health professionals. The program helps to support early identification, early referral, early and optimal treatment and prevention of diabetes-related foot problems and amputations. The Australian Podiatry Association The Australian Podiatry Association in your state will help you find a podiatrist with specialised knowledge about diabetes. A doctor can refer people with diabetes and serious foot problems (such as ulcers or neuropathy) to high-risk foot clinics. Limbs 4 Life Limbs 4 Life provides information and support to amputees and their families. Call the toll-free number on 1300 782 231.